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Although the swing style may have launched the art status of jazz by placing it in the ears and the minds of the world, it was its successor, bop, which claimed mainstream status. More significant changes, both musical and nonmusical, occurred in jazz with the advent of bop than at any other time in jazz history. The military service draft of World War II brought about the dissolution of the big bands and the rise of small combos. The country was nervous, and the music was nervous and agitated. Because many well-known players were in the military, new, young players and their ideas were able to get exposure.

There were considerable changes in techniques and attitudes toward performances. There also were changes of attitude toward audiences. Bop became the first jazz style that was not used for dancing. Consequently, there were great changes in the repertoire. There was also a shift away from the popularity that swing enjoyed to a more elite listening audience. The elitism also expanded to the players. If you were an accomplished swing player, there was no guarantee that you would be able to survive the expectations of the bop musical world. The music’s complexity required players to extend their former playing knowledge. A theoretical underpinning began to emerge as players stretched the harmonic boundaries of early jazz styles. Players had to have a greater and more immediate sense of chord recognition, as well as their extensions and possible substitutions. The music was generally fast, demanding execution on individual instruments seldom required by previous styles. It is interesting that bop is today considered the mainstream of jazz style, yet it was not enthusiastically accepted by the jazz community at the time of its emergence.

Bebop Era

The bebop era, 1944-1955, represents for many the most significant period in jazz history; several consider it the time when musicians began stressing artistic rather than commercial concerns, put innovation ahead of convention, and looked toward the future instead of paying homage to the past.

Others view bebop as jazz's ultimate dead end, the style that instituted solemnity and elitism among the fraternity stripped jazz of its connection with dance, and made it im- possible for anyone except hard-core collectors, academics, and other musicians to enjoy and appreciate the music. Each assessment contains enough grains of truth to merit closer, more extensive examination, and there have been many studies, dissertations and essays, devoted to addressing and evaluating these contentions. But it's undeniable jazz changed forever during the bebop years. This chapter looks at the musicians who made these sweeping changes and what they were.




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