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  1. #1

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    Hi, this may not be a very irrelevant thread for these forums, but I'm writing an essay for college on Bebop and to what extent it was (or wasn't) a reaction against white appropriation of jazz during the Swing Era, focusing on Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach in particular. I've been struggling a lot finding any good resources, articles or interviews relating to this topic, could anyone point me in the right direction?
    Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you,
    Colin

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  3. #2

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    I have read little snippets about this here and there over the years. I am pretty sure that Thelonius Monk was attributed to have said they made the music hard so that "others" could not play it. I believe it was mentioned in a DVD I have that was a documentary of Monk. Of course this was not the point of the DVD but I remember having a chuckle when I heard it. (He was an interesting personality)

    Finding Monk's quote might be a good starting point in a Google search.

  4. #3

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    The Jazz Institute (I think it's called) at Rutgers University has a lot of historical information. Dan Morganstern is knowledgeable. Some of this might be available on line.

    Also Gary Giddins is a writer/journalist on jazz.

    Check out Miles Davis' autobiography. There is some discussion of this.

    Gunther Schuller has written 3 big books on jazz from early beginnings, the Swing Era, and then Modern Era (bebop and forward). The latter 2 books have discussions of this.

    PS: Actually Schuller's Swing Era book gives an extended discussion of swing style, and the major black and white bands, and swing era soloists. This is the backdrop against which bop developed. You need to have a sense of who the major players (individual and bands) were, how music was marketed, and available, and what was popular coming from the Swing Era and earlier 1920's stuff, to understand why bop developed.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 02-26-2017 at 12:53 PM.

  5. #4

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    Ira Gitler's book 'Swing to Bop' would be useful. It's basically interviews with nearly everybody who was there.

  6. #5

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    The Wikipedia entry on bebop is one of the better Wiki pages I have seen recently and has some good references.

    Bebop - Wikipedia

    FWIW, I personally don't see much of a conscious attempt on the part of bebop pioneers to make a racially oriented statement. Most prominent early players were black, because bebop arose out of the black big bands and the clubs they played in. Of course I'm not naive enough to think that anything involving popular music culture does not have a racial component to it.

    The movie Bird makes an oblique reference to this, with Bird's invitation of Red Rodney into his band causing some controversy.

    Hard bop on the other hand was more self-conscious. The players there wanted to bring more gospel and "soul" into jazz playing, specifically to make something that would emphasize black culture as distinct from beatnik music (e.g., West Coast jazz).

  7. #6

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    Nat Hentoff is another resource: I read his book The Jazz Life some time ago, which is probably his best-known work. He has quite a few books on jazz focusing on the artists of the bebop era.

    The Jazz Life (A Da Capo paperback): Nat Hentoff: 9780306800887: Amazon.com: Books

  8. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77

    Gunther Schuller has written 3 big books on jazz from early beginnings, the Swing Era, and then Modern Era (bebop and forward). The latter 2 books have discussions of this.
    I think Schuller planned to write 3 volumes, but only finished two: Early Jazz and The Swing Era.

  9. #8

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    Maybe you're right. I just finished The Swing Era, and took him at his word, when he makes frequent references to the latter work.

    (I can understand him not finishing it. In The Swing Era, he said he listened to 30,000 cuts, I believe. Massive amount of work.)

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by TM25
    Hi, this may not be a very irrelevant thread for these forums, but I'm writing an essay for college on Bebop and to what extent it was (or wasn't) a reaction against white appropriation of jazz during the Swing Era, focusing on Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach in particular. I've been struggling a lot finding any good resources, articles or interviews relating to this topic, could anyone point me in the right direction?
    Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you,
    Colin
    You really need to check out the accounts of some people who were actually there.

    Most of the received wisdom about this era is a simplification.

  11. #10

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    I would recommend picking through the appalling mindrot that is late 1940s Downbeat for the interviews with the pioneers of the music. I think there is a collection of articles you can download.

    Reading the music press of the time, I can see why Artie Shaw decided to stop. Imagine celebrity culture applied to jazz.

    Also Barry Harris some interesting things to say about the advent of the Bop era ... He's a little too young to have been there at the hand over, but his recollections make for interesting listening, and runs counters to the often repeated Ken Burns Jazz narrative of the period.

    PRX

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    You really need to check out the accounts of some people who were actually there.

    Most of the received wisdom about this era is a simplification
    .
    Although, you have to remember that participant's accounts may themselves be biased, or unreliable.

    Schuller in his Swing Era book has an interesting e.g. about Don Redman, an arranger in the 20's and 30's. Acc'd to Don Redman, a fellow arranger, John Nesbitt, "was copying everyone else's records", and this was repeated by Redman in an interview in Jazz Review (1959). Schuller repeated this statement in his earlier book, and goes to some pains in his later book, to show that Redman's statement was not only wrong, but that it was Redman "who was embarrassingly plagiaristic...and particularly obsessed with Johnny Green's Coquette, and Donaldson's My Blue Heaven...Schuller's later book concludes that "Nesbitt was consistently inventive" and "it was Redman who was alarmingly derivative."

    The Louis Armstrong bio I just read had an unintentionally hilarious bit about Bunk Johnson, an old time trumpet player who a British jazz writer tracked down, on a remote farm somewhere in La. during the 1940's. Evidently, someone had told him that Johnson was Louis A.'s chief influence and trumpet mentor, growing up. Bunk had stopped playing for some time, and was living alone, with no teeth (which made trumpet playing difficult). A set of teeth was provided, along with a suit of clothes, and Bunk Johnson was trotted out to play for adoring audiences in the East. It became apparent that Bunk's "memories" were a little suspect... to say the least.

    Bottom line: personal accounts, and interviews might be valuable, but can't be taken at face value, and should be subject to normal types of historical fact-checking and verification.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 02-26-2017 at 08:28 PM.

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by goldenwave77
    Although, you have to remember that participant's accounts may themselves be biased, or unreliable.
    Indeed, that's why it's history... Nothing is neat...

  14. #13

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    OK ....here's a reading list for you:

    "To Be, Or Not To Bop" ......Dizzy Gillespie .....the real thang.....from the man himself!
    [Highly recommended]

    "Bebop: The Music and Its Players"......Thomas Owens.
    Good read.

    "The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History" .....Scott DeVeaux
    Bit academic but still worthwhile.

    "Swing To Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940's" .....Ira Gitler
    Has value because the author is talking with the players of that era.

    I read all of these when doing some teaching at a Jazz School .....the library was an amazing resource ....a better
    incentive than the modest income to do the work I was paid for.....and that's not mentioning the crappy academic politics.

    Anyway......re the books I listed above....the Diz book is a must .....the others fill in the bigger picture.
    All are available on Amazon [I checked]

    You may get lucky and find some titles at your local library.

    I wish you good reading.

  15. #14

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    WWII, the musician's union strike/recording ban in 1942-44 and 1948 had a huge impact on musician's employment and the climate that helped incubate bebop.

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moonray
    OK ....here's a reading list for you:

    "To Be, Or Not To Bop" ......Dizzy Gillespie .....the real thang.....from the man himself!
    [Highly recommended]

    "Bebop: The Music and Its Players"......Thomas Owens.
    Good read.

    "The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History" .....Scott DeVeaux
    Bit academic but still worthwhile.

    "Swing To Bop: An Oral History of the Transition in Jazz in the 1940's" .....Ira Gitler
    Has value because the author is talking with the players of that era.

    I read all of these when doing some teaching at a Jazz School .....the library was an amazing resource ....a better
    incentive than the modest income to do the work I was paid for.....and that's not mentioning the crappy academic politics.

    Anyway......re the books I listed above....the Diz book is a must .....the others fill in the bigger picture.
    All are available on Amazon [I checked]

    You may get lucky and find some titles at your local library.

    I wish you good reading.
    I'm going to have to read those myself!

  17. #16

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    Another couple of books for your research list:

    'Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original' by Robin Kelley (THE book on Monk)

    'The Amazing Bud Powell: Black Genius, Jazz History, and the Challenge of Bebop' by Guthrie Ramsey

    'The Masters of Bebop: A Listener's Guide' by Ira Gitler

  18. #17

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    Incidentally, the Ira Gitler book (Swing to Bop) has quite a few descriptions of Charlie Christian by various interviewees. Sounds like he was highly thought of, i.e. not only by fellow guitarists.

    As I recall it also has a long section by Barney Kessel about his experiences hanging out with CC which is interesting.

    Overall a fascinating book, it's all seen from the musicians' viewpoints. It has an exhaustive index (at least my copy does), so you can quickly find any references to, or interviews by, any musician (there are loads of people in there).
    Last edited by grahambop; 02-27-2017 at 08:56 AM.

  19. #18

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    I also feel like 'bebop' had a different meaning at the time. Nowadays we apply it to the musical style of Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Bud and the second generation guys. But it looks to me like it used to more a blanket term for those doing interesting stuff with the materials of swing, generally in small bands.

    That included obviously people like Monk and Charlie Christian, but also could include some contemporary swing based musicians Tiny Grimes, Slim & Slam, Tatum and so on... The boundaries of the style were quite porous, and bop influenced a lot of swing music too. Plus a lot of the seminal early Bird/Diz cuts were made with rhythm sections that were essentially couched in swing....

    The Coleman Hawkins stuff of the period makes interesting listening as a 'halfway house'

  20. #19

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    While Max Roach is unquestionably a major figure in any discussion of bebop, the bebop drumming discourse begins
    with Kenny Clarke. The shift from keeping time on the bass drum to the cymbal facilitated a new overall rhythm section
    concept. This was an important defining feature of the style as well as for many future jazz evolutions that followed.
    Last edited by bako; 02-27-2017 at 09:49 AM.

  21. #20

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    Be careful, folks. We shouldn't be doing this kid's research for him, in effect, by providing him with all the stuff he's supposed to be finding out on his own.

  22. #21

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    Don't forget that the OP is looking a this topic through the prism of race, so any references given should glean information from this angle. He distinctly mentioned "white appropriation" in his post.

    With race, religion, and economics being such volatile topics, I would wonder if there are many sources out there that adequately and accurately tackle the influence of race and racism in the Bebop era.

  23. #22

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    Schuller talks a lot about this in his book. Major theme, and in fact the book is organized in that manner. He has big chapters on "The Great Black Bands" and the "Great White Bands", and "Territory Bands". Also, chapters on Ellington, Louis A. and his skeptically titled chapter "The 'King' of Swing--Benny Goodman", "The Quintessence of Swing" and separate chapters on great soloists.

    The discussion of black bands is more extensive, and together with the Territory bands discussion (almost all of them black), is almost twice as long as the discussion of white bands, which is appropriate, since he basically says the Dorseys never swung (very well), and Goodman's band would have been defunct without Fletcher Henderson's arrangements. (They were literally about to stop playing/touring, when they pulled them out of their suitcases.)

    At the same time, he points out that there was a lot of back and forth, musically, and notes some peculiarities, as in a number of black musicians who LOVED the sound of Guy Lombardo's band.
    Last edited by goldenwave77; 02-27-2017 at 12:21 PM.

  24. #23

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    An interview with Guthrie Ramsey, the author of the Bud Powell book I mention at post 16 above.


  25. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by AlsoRan
    Don't forget that the OP is looking a this topic through the prism of race, so any references given should glean information from this angle. He distinctly mentioned "white appropriation" in his post.

    With race, religion, and economics being such volatile topics, I would wonder if there are many sources out there that adequately and accurately tackle the influence of race and racism in the Bebop era.
    The Dizzy Gillespie biography has quite a lot of his reflections on this aspect as I recall.

  26. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by Moonray
    OK ....here's a reading list for you:

    ...
    "The Birth of Bebop: A Social and Musical History" .....Scott DeVeaux
    Bit academic but still worthwhile.
    ...
    I highly recommend the DeVeaux book. As the title indicates, the author is sophisticated about both music and social issues. It's one of the best music history books I've read.

    To the OP, I think this will drill down into the race/social issues you are focusing on.

    Another (famous) book on that angle is Blues People by Leroi Jones. Be careful though--it is more of a polemic than a history book. Well worth reading.

    Finally, also worthwhile on race and jazz is Notes and Tones by Arthur Taylor. Taylor was a black jazz musician, and interviewed lots of his fellow musicians in the 1970s. Many of the interviews touch on race.
    Last edited by dingusmingus; 02-27-2017 at 12:22 PM.

  27. #26

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    [QUOTE=Moonray;746790]OK ....here's a reading list for you:

    "To Be, Or Not To Bop" ......Dizzy Gillespie .....the real thang.....from the man himself!
    [Highly recommended]

    "Bebop: The Music and Its Players"......Thomas Owens.
    Good read.

    /QUOTE]

    I've read the Owens book a few times now. It taught me a lot. Haven't read Diz's book---have to look that one up. The Gitler book too. Thanks!

  28. #27

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    One classic source on this topic is a book written by a German musicologist: Ekkehard Jost's "Sozialgeschichte des Jazz" (1982 and 2003). You know that it basically can help when a pundit outside the system is looking over facts - just to weed out any intrinsic 'alternative facts'.

    Bebop as the reaction of the African-American jazz musicians to the swing "industry" largely dominated by white band leaders, concert agents, label and labor union bosses and bankrollers? The early beboppers as the predecessors of the Black Power movement?

    It's not that easy to read, like even Wikipedia points out. Presumably a chain of different factors led to the emergence of this new style. By the end of the 1930s Swing had become a big business. The creative zenith of many swing orchestras was over, and the music was threatening to solidify. Bored with routine as a "orchestra worker" many musicians - often "after hours" after finishing their job in the big band - began to meet in informal jam sessions. There they were able to play and search for musical forms beyond the big bands. One point of crystallization of this development was Minton's Playhouse in Harlem (far less the 52nd Street in Manhattan, as is often mistakenly claimed). Among the most important musicians of this circle were Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Charlie Christian, Thelonious Monk, and Kenny Clarke.
    It is also assumed that the increase in taxation on dance events due to the US entry into the war in 1941 gradually undermined the economics of the big bands, thus accelerating the decline of the swing and fostering the development of the new style in the form of an autonomous art music.

    The small bands who developed the new jazz style were not regarded as dance and entertainment ensembles, nor were they in their own self-understanding, so the owners of the nightclubs were not covered with special war charges when they engaged young bebop musicians with their combos. Because of the recording ban, there are no studio recordings from the early genre of this style; there are only some private, technically very inadequate live recordings from Minton's Playhouse and Monroe's Uptown House.

    Musically speaking, the bebop was, above all, the newly formed self-consciousness of the Afro-Americans - contrary to all interpretations that emphasize its allegedly European components. The emphasis was placed on the African elements of jazz, which had largely been suppressed in the swing: rhythmic complexity and blues feeling.

    The consciousness, which prevailed among the musicians who set the new style in motion, unmistakably corresponded to the changed attitude of the Afro-Americans during and after the Second World War. The ambivalent character of this period, which included anger and anxiety, determination, and uncertainty for the black Americans, was reflected in the ego of the bop musician, characterized by artistic self-assurance and psycho-social instability.

    Certainly the beboppers were quite conscious of the particular ethnic connections of their music; it may be illustrated by an episode portrayed by Dizzy Gillespie. In 1944, the Gillespie Quintet played at the Onyx in the 52nd Street; they were the first bebop group to go out of the Harlem black ghetto. One evening the renowned (white) saxophonist and swing bandleader Jimmy Dorsey came to the club to listen to the music of the beboppers. This led to the following word change (retranslated):
    Dorsey: "Boy! That stuff you're playing! I'd really like to get you for my band, but you're so dark!"
    Gillespie: "Well, if I were not, I would not be able to play this way. Do you know anyone who plays our stuff and has your color?"
    Dorsey: "No, I'm afraid, I don't."

    There are only isolated, not easily brought together statements by jazzmen of the 1940s on political or social problems. One example is the traditional response of a jazz musician who, after the end of the Second World War, responded: "Man, just let me blow!"
    It is therefore questionable whether the first bebop musicians so consciously and purposefully reacted to the social and political conditions of their time, that one could assume they themselves had been establishing their music as the "manifesto of a revolt against capitalism or commercial discrimination of culture and race" (Francis Newton).

    "I suspect that the beboppers have been absorbed too much by their musical activities and by the 'kicks' to which they adhered, rather than being able to deal with political and social problems. Certainly they protested. But their protests were vague, partly self-destructive, and were mediated by their aesthetic medium in which they unconsciously expressed the disturbance of the period through which they themselves had been impelled." (Ekkehard Jost)

    It took about twenty years after the introduction of bebop, until (black) jazz musicians began not only to articulate their attitude to the surrounding social conditions, but also to put their protest into action.

    EDIT:
    Just keep the possibility in mind that if beboppers, even the originators, were interviewed on this topic in the 1960s or later, their answers might not reflect the truth about what they had really experienced or created in the 40s. In this regard, personally, I'd much more rely on the concise statements of Thelonious Monk than on the ones of Dizzy Gillespie; Parker and Christian died too soon... stoned were all... The reason for any 'falsification' of history could be both new aspects or the changed zeitgeist and the general human tending to self-aggrandizement ('the past has always a rosy ass').
    Last edited by Ol' Fret; 02-27-2017 at 02:42 PM.

  29. #28

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    WWII, the musician's union strike/recording ban in 1942-44 and 1948 had a huge impact on musician's employment and the climate that helped incubate bebop.
    Good point. Also, that ban made early bebop records sound more jarring than they otherwise would have. Little of the transitional playing was heard by the general public.

    Also, when the war was over, most people felt like they (or their husband / brother / father) were lucky to be alive and weren't looking to music for proof they were real or alive or authentic. ;o)
    Last edited by MarkRhodes; 01-22-2020 at 12:01 PM.

  30. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    I also feel like 'bebop' had a different meaning at the time. Nowadays we apply it to the musical style of Charlie Parker, Dizzy, Bud and the second generation guys. But it looks to me like it used to more a blanket term for those doing interesting stuff with the materials of swing, generally in small bands.

    That included obviously people like Monk and Charlie Christian, but also could include some contemporary swing based musicians Tiny Grimes, Slim & Slam, Tatum and so on... The boundaries of the style were quite porous, and bop influenced a lot of swing music too. Plus a lot of the seminal early Bird/Diz cuts were made with rhythm sections that were essentially couched in swing....

    The Coleman Hawkins stuff of the period makes interesting listening as a 'halfway house'
    Scott DeVeaux's book is all about that transitional period. Well worth checking out.

  31. #30

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    Quote Originally Posted by PMB
    Scott DeVeaux's book is all about that transitional period. Well worth checking out.
    Nice!

  32. #31

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    Quote Originally Posted by christianm77
    Nice!
    Yes, Christian, check out DeVeaux. As I recall, the whole first chapter is on Hawkins as a transitional figure--right up your alley.

  33. #32

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    Quote Originally Posted by TM25
    Hi, this may not be a very irrelevant thread for these forums, but I'm writing an essay for college on Bebop and to what extent it was (or wasn't) a reaction against white appropriation of jazz during the Swing Era, focusing on Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach in particular. I've been struggling a lot finding any good resources, articles or interviews relating to this topic, could anyone point me in the right direction?
    Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you,
    Colin
    There are many interviews with Max Roach (and many others) in the archives of WKCR on the beginnings of bebop and its race components. Trouble is, Mr. Roach often contradicted himself (for example, saying everything else in jazz 'paled' compared to the music of Charlie Parker, et. al---then turning around and praising Dave Brubeck). I don't know if these interviews are ever made available to the public, but perhaps if you humbly made a student's request?

    There IS an illuminating interview in Dizzy Gillespie's autobiog (To Be or Not to Bop) with John Carisi. He says that one night outside Minton's Joe Guy took him aside and said 'you (white) guys come up here and learn (maybe he said 'take') our stuff'. Carisi's interpretation was that 'he was saying "you're doing what WE'RE doing"'---a compliment.

    There's also a mildly interesting book, Jazz in Black and White. Sorry to say, I don't remember the author's name or what periods were covered.

    An earlier suggestion to take a trip to the archives at Rutgers was a good one. Mr. Morgenstern (if he hasn't retired) is a nice, knowledgeable and helpful man. If Ed Berger is still there he is a fount of information.

    Hope some of this helps...

  34. #33

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    An interesting and, as has been pointed out, potentially volatile topic. Not least when one considers the influence of a third party in the mix.

  35. #34

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    Quote Originally Posted by TM25
    Hi, this may not be a very irrelevant thread for these forums, but I'm writing an essay for college on Bebop and to what extent it was (or wasn't) a reaction against white appropriation of jazz during the Swing Era, focusing on Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and Max Roach in particular. I've been struggling a lot finding any good resources, articles or interviews relating to this topic, could anyone point me in the right direction?
    Any help is greatly appreciated, thank you,
    Colin
    Try to locate the December 20th, 1948 issue of Time Magazine: in the Music section is an article about Bebop. The article mentions the Royal Chicken Roost: "Bebop has been around for 7 to 8 years, and something of a fad for two, but experts still disagree over what it is, and whether it will last. Gutsy, oldtimes Blues Singer Chippie Hills says flatly and hopefully that "It won't last, my 16 year old niece does it when she drinks beer and does it better than any of them!". To the naked ear its shrill cacophony seems anarchistic; on repeated hearing it becomes clear that the players planned it that way. Duke Ellington, now a disc jockey, has been kind; old Satchmo, critical".

    "Dizzy Gillespie, the high cockalorum of bop, was getting top billing at the Strand Theater".

    There is much more that you may find very interesting. E.g. Sarah Vaughan; "a velvet-skinned Negro squeezed her toothpaste-smooth voice, singing like a kazoo".

    PS: I purchased the mag as part of my movie collection since Olivia De Havilland is on the cover for the film The Snake Pit.

  36. #35

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    OP asked this question THREE years ago.......and never came back to the forum, ever again. Grave robbers at work....

  37. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmic gumbo
    OP asked this question THREE years ago.......and never came back to the forum, ever again. Grave robbers at work....
    Thanks for pointing that out. I assume he already submitted that paper! (ha ha).

    I had just re-read that magazine (the ads are a hoot), and when I saw this thread as "unread" I made that reference.