Bebop and the Birth of Modern Jazz

Classical Academy | Jazz & Blues | Performers


'Bebop' - a nonsense term? Sure. A load of nonsense? Quite the opposite! Bebop gave birth to modern jazz, defining the style that came to maturity in the 1960s. Characterized by fast tempo, instrumental virtuosity and improvisation, its name was coined from scat singing - vocalizing with nonsense syllables.


In the 1940s, a new generation of young jazz musicians got experimental, turning away from the swing music of the 1930s and adding their own twist with some spectacular improvised performances. These pioneers included Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Thelonious Monk. Their harmonies were advanced, their syncopation complex, their chords unusual and often dissonant - it was radical stuff and people loved it.


By the 1950s, the likes of Miles Davis and John Coltrane expanded and developed the standard bebop vocabulary, while other players discovered new styles that were increasingly free. Even today, hip hop artists cite bebop as a major inflluence.


One of the great American jazz bebop musicians is Phil Woods, alto saxophone player, clarinetist and composer. Known as New Bird after Charlie 'Bird' Parker, he was influenced to a certain degree by bebop's king saxophonist, even marrying his widow Chan Parker in later years. A Life in E-flat - Portrait of a Jazz Legend documents Woods during a recording session of the Jazzed Media album This Is How I Felt About Quincey - it's an intimate portrait of this jazz legend.


Discover the whirlwind sound that is bebop with this mesmerizing recording Pass the Bebop featuring none other than Phil Woods.

Find out about the full trio of Birds - joining Phil Woods there's our special articles on both Charlie 'Yardbird' Parker and Jimmy 'Little Bird' Heath.