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But these qualities are not acquisitions with the young. They are injured go in his plane. He was perhaps the first to make a clean break with the past and create a style that's actually unique although of course his playing is certainly rooted in the trans tradition of the past with Jelly Roll Morton Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker. The figures that loom in their respective there is Lester Young as one of the four chief innovators of jazz. A musician of less stature than Armstrong Young is nonetheless comparable to Louis in historical importance. He was the first to abandon the particular style of Coleman Hawkins the rapid staccato figuration with its reliance on a snow dotted 16th patterns. Whereas Hawkins had been exuberant often over abundant extraverted this
had been the grazing method of Ben Webster Dick Wilson and Lester Young less and less notes than his predecessor but abundances were balanced against Baron as within the structure of his solos. You know it's good for example ten notes for the first four by a section. A classic stylist like Hawkins might have doubled the amount. These ten are set with scale in the rhythm. The opening phrase succinctly stated leads to longer and complex improvisations upon the whole of which is a masterpiece of economy and logic. Lester's musical thought flowed Russell's analysis continues. Not within the accepted
confines of to a four bar sections but more he thought in terms of a melodic line that submitted only to the harmony of the original as it reworked the melody into something fresh and personal sense that enables a jazz man to improvise readily as a talent melodic vision of the quality is a mark of rare ability. Lester Young's core and BB changes with such adroitness that the listener is frequently not aware of them until after they've fallen. Lester's method is to phrase ahead to prepare for and gracefully lead into the next several beats before its arrival. To be able to move in and out of the harmony is a step so sure to always come out on the right note in the right beat. Here's a mark. As for stated of an unusual scale even in a field like jazz where so many men are so brilliant improvisers Jazz had known nothing like this since the first airing ever of his ations of Louis Armstrong as an innovator of harmonic change. Lester employed the light Polychrome orchestral
palette of the debut C schoolmasters spirit was pleased by the sound of the sixth and ninth intervals that lie adjacent The dominant and tonic notes was typical of his subtle inquiring nature to play just off what the year expected and thereby extend musical structure on a horizontal plane. Lester added variety to the melodic line but he knew well how to balance the parts. He is complex but he is never complicated. Wild crescendo as a contrast and with hammering repetitions iridescent multi note passages with sections where notes are a mass like blocks short statements lead to long flowing sentences. Let's do solos a complete with the dips and soaring flights. Surprises twists hoarse shouts and bubbling laughter. The holes and like basically Leicester leaves many are deliberate and meaningful. The dry bite of the attack you know it's the fatness of the slurs and periods. All are parts of a deliberate style of a master virtuoso of the tenor saxophone like all of the giants. Lester possesses a tremendous beat. He is one of those rare musicians who can swing an entire band the
massive swing of the bass the orchestra became even more exciting when Lester's solo. Very often when he had the first solo as on taxi were Dan's young would divest the opening statements of all but their rhythmic elements. Here Lester underlines the first and third beats giving greater emphasis to Joe Jones high accents which fall on two and four in rhythmic language. This solo develops a 4 4 2 4 and a 1 3 pattern simultaneously. And results in rhythmic complexity that goes beyond that of any contemporary. No one before and neither Armstrong nor Morton nor Hawkins had created a melodic line as rich and rhythmic interest as did Lester Young. Or. I think there again it might be well to repeat the best course.
New Orleans bans achieve this rhythmic complex that collectively the quality deteriorated during the following period when Jazz emphasized romantic and individualistic tendencies that is this kind of rhythmic complexity. Whereas other elements like Harmony
did not deteriorate but rather evolved Western romantic recreated this quality in an individual style. And was aided by the fact as we demonstrated that the jazz beat itself had become more elastic more confident. Lester's insistence on the rhythmic priorities of jazz came as a tonic to music which in part had been drifting away from the drive of really New Orleans music. Lester did more than reaffirm these priorities. He replenished the stream as Russell phrases that had been polluted by the arrangers and that's made possible the even more complex rhythmic developments of the BOP style. Lester Young's work falls into two main periods. Actually three counting the present but from 35 to 40 when he was featured with a scene recorded with a parent band and with Teddy Wilson Benny Goodman and Billie Holiday from 1940 until Let us say 49 50 during which time he concentrated mainly on concert and small band work. The current Lester Young while still a major soloist when he plays to
the fullest of his potentialities has become apparently rather bored with some of the. Routines of my club and one night during the first period 35 to 40 Lester's playing is notable for its freshness and abandon lack of inhibition does not mean that Lester was nervous or frenzied. He's the most relaxed of musicians. His notes flowed like water out of a tap. The source showed no signs of depletion. West his detachment was unshakable. He always seemed to be in a world of his own heard in person in the midst of the happy jungle of bass his orchestral sound or on record. Lester gave the impression of impassioned absorption and on records his solos can be said to glow with a kind of radiance. Lester Young style is essentially romantic uninhibited relaxed sensitive imaginative deeply subjective very intimate communication of an artist who is voicing the ideas of his era in a language of in part the next decade.
Lester always sounds spontaneous less disciplined than Hawkins he is nonetheless a musician whose product is orderly and structural. But these qualities balance and unity of parts clarity of concept lie beneath the surface under the luminous texture of notes. When lust at first appeared on the jazz scene Ross Russell continues he had command of a completely
integrated style which has undergone little change since 35 except for the past two years. It was as if he had been planning a frontal attack on Orthodoxy for a long time the roots of Western style extend in many directions. On one side there indisputably in the reed tradition of the early clarinetist who emphasized a melodic and lyrical qualities of jazz and thought in terms of the blues scale. Indeed the Kansas City style so far as it can be called a style speaks the language of the New Orleans clarinetist and such linked figures as any bare field show how the reed style shifted from clarinet to alto or tenor saxophone during the 20s Fairfield's feeling for phrasing contrasts in his fluid quality had to be heard consistently in Lester Young style and as young demonstrated in his Kansas City six records he himself plays a beautiful clarinet which has definitely his own with the New Orleans clarinet style. But Lester draws equally from sources of a much different nature. Dave you see in harmony invite intonation and the spiritual qualities which are attached to the
tradition of Bix Beiderbecke can but Freeman and Frank Young listen to a lot about Freeman and Trumbo during his early period search for the springs of hidden beauty in terms of the 20s hypersensitivity and even as Russell phrases it Bohemianism are reflected in Lester's music from Bud Freeman another exponent of Midwest White Jazz derivatives of the Chicago work of King Oliver Louis Armstrong young dries clean technique lightness of tone and a sense of chromatics. Occasionally Freeman's work suggests the flights of exuberance that we find so frequently with Lester. It is a synthesis of opposing attitudes and ideologies the profound tradition of the blues combined with the infusions of European harmony and white romanticism that gives Lester Young's music its special appeal. The by again by white romanticism I don't mean that in terms of racial inheritance of cultural proclivities. As we pointed out previously it's a matter of the
music these men listen to in the music and the musicians they played with. There is no particular musical band or any other kind of event deriving from race alone. The various materials are combined in Leicester in a style which has no eclectic qualities but rather is fused integrated and intensely personal. From a historical point of view Lester Young's influence was most effective during his basi period was affected less than those of his own generation than on the young musicians learning their instruments and developing a style along those of his own generation the most important read man followers were by Johnson friends Jackson's groups carry little sacks Crowder all of whom turned up at various times for their hinds band. If Lester gained only occasional disciples among those of his own generation his appeal to those of the next was transcendent. From the date of his very first record release with bass and young musicians in all parts of the country began listening to jazz with a new attitude. Bass he records was sensuously collected the young solos replayed and whistled imitating appearances of the Basie band would a must for the growing number of
fans of sad Lester's feet at such occasions digging every phrase played by the master as Dexter Gordon describes it. Hawke was the master of the horn a musician who did everything possible with it the right way but when present period we all started listening to him alone. Young had an entirely new sound one that we seemed to be waiting for. Pres was the first to tell a story on the horn. Of course Hawkins and other saxophonists of the Hawkins school had told a story in an important one on their hands Gordon is saying that the art of the old school the jazz classes as if we like no longer held valid for the insurgents of his generation. They were in revolt against the orthodoxy of the Armstrong Hawkins school of jazz with its powerful of a Bronco and phatic periods of lusty intonation relatively rigid harmonies and rather severe a solo architecture. What they admired in Lester Young was his lighter and purer tone. His broader harmonic concepts his greater extension of the solo line with the result in freedom from its bar divisions his dreamy are more lyrical style and of course like all appreciate great
jazz of any kind they recognize his transcendent qualities his melodic gift inventiveness and above all his tremendous swing. PRES we came a cult in the late 30s and its camp followers numbered dozens of musicians who were to take pride and help mold themselves the changes of the next decade and more. Gillespie Charlie Parker Bud Powell a Felonious Monk next to Gordon Waddell great Stan Getz Alan Agar Sonny Stitt Max Roach Kenny Clarke Miles Davis Leo Parker J.J. Johnson Charlie Christian Benny Harris Fats Navarro practically every new musician of the 40s learn from Lester Young and those we forget that the Blues still remain all through this period and into the modern jazz. A prominent basic part of the jazz language here is Lester's mastery of the blues in Lester's blues. When a fellow describes the early years of the most influential of all present jazz man
comes directly through the influence of Lester Young Charlie Parker Charlie Parker was born in Kansas City Aug. 29 1920 as far back as he can remember he was surrounded by great music in a city that has given jazz so many of its leading Starnes. He played baritone horn in the school band started seriously on alto at the age of 15 when his mother bought him a horn. Charlie first went to work for J MC Shan when the band came to Kansas City in 1937. A band that featured the blue is a great deal. He later left the band and rejoined a couple of times and gained some of his other early experience locally with the Kansas City bands of Lawrence keys and Harlan Leonard as early as 1938 but Johnson remembers seeing Charlie Parker wander into a Chicago dance hall one night looking beat and without a horn. He wanted to sit in with King Cole X has banned the album and loaned him a instrument and when he heard the amazing results told Charlie that since he happened to have an extra horn
and Charlie had none it would be all right for him to keep this one. Charlie was without a horn again though the following year when he visited New York. It's 39 though we stayed around town for several months he did not work as a musician and it was not until he made another trip East with MC Shan that Manhattan musicians had their first chance to hear him. During the chance for a visit to New York Charlie met Dizzy Gillespie when Dizzy sat in with the band one night at the Savoy Ballroom. The Savoy I once regarded as a jazz Mecca was the New York home ground of such bands as Teddy Hill's many cards and a late chick Webb's group in the late thirties. So boy audiences consisted of local jitterbug who wanted music but jumped in jazz hundreds from downtown who are more concerned with the aesthetic qualities of the performances the chans music though it had some of the intangible qualities described as the Midwestern style conform pretty closely with the requirements of the Savoy audience it was primarily a blues band featured blue shadow while the brown the arrangements of the solos were generally based on the traditional blues pattern and other simple forms. Charlie Parker wrote a few numbers in the style and
played solos on some of the band's first recordings made in 41 and 42 his work at that time had certain qualities that lifted it above the level of its surroundings the phrasing was more involved the tone a little more strident and the pulse of each performance had a manner of swing that seemed to own nothing to any directly attributable So I guess his use of grace notes in certain dynamic inflections were different from anything that had been heard on the alto or on any other instrument. The foundations of Parker's ultimate style he's known as the bird so if I lapse into calling him the bird that's why we're clearly the line before he left Kansas City. But it was a New York City began experimenting with new harmonic ideas. I used to hang around with a guitarist named Buddy fleet Charlie recalls. We sat in the back room at a chili place and you could play a and other spots uptown and Biddy fleet would run new chords for instance we'd find that you could play a relative major using the right inversions against a seven chord and we played around with flatted fifths. After I left MC
Shan in Detroit and came back to New York I used to sit in at Minton's with men like Kenneth credit Scott on tenor John Simmons bass Kenny clacker Kansas fields on drums and Felonious Monk. Those are the men who play everything on the right chords the new chords that we believed were right and instead of the old tunes we played Cherokee and all the things you aren't. Nice work if you can get it. But there were some men in the chans band who had been developing new ideas too especially Johnny Jackson the other Adelman and Jimmy Forrest on tenor despite Jolly's assertion regarding his colleagues in the Chen band. There was little room for expansion within the harmonic confines of that spirited traditional style group. It was when he was playing with a small group of clock Monroe's uptown house in Harlem that the New York musicians began to talk about it at that time according to Kenny Clark he was playing alto somewhat in the manner that Lester Young played tenor although his style was evolving into something entirely personal. Charlie did not acquire a real reputation until a couple of years later. He worked on a variety of jobs. Even spending nine months working for a noble Sissel
whose band has always been further removed from jazz and closer to the Broadway commercial concept of dance music. So hated me chose says Charlie and I only had one feature and number in his in the books I doubled on clarinet for that John. Clarinet is by no means Charlie's only double from time to time has been heard experimenting with practically every brass and woodwind instrument. Strangely enough in a Hines orchestra the first big band in which I brought quick developed Charlie played tenor sax. We'll continue with the story of Charlie Parker and an analysis of his style next week but as an example of his work here he is with Erroll Garner on piano read calendar bass Harold west on drums and the cool blue. Next week further discussion of Charlie Parker and other aspects of the evolution of Bob.
You have been listening to the evolution of jazz recorded series prepared and produced by Nat Hentoff under the auspices of Northeastern University and presented by the Lowell Institute cooperative broadcasting Council. The evolution of jazz was recorded in the Boston studios of WGBH FM. This is the national educational radio network.
The Evolution of Jazz
Episode Number
Bop Instrumentation, Part Two
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WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
This program continues to look at the elements of bop, particularly the instrumentation common in the genre.
Series Description
Jazz historian Nat Hentoff presents a series that traces the history of jazz, from its musical and cultural roots to its contemporary forms. "The Evolution of Jazz" was originally broadcast from WGBH in 1953-1954, and was re-broadcast by the National Educational Radio Network in 1964.
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Jazz musicians--United States--Biography.
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Host: Hentoff, Nat
Producer: Hentoff, Nat
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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University of Maryland
Identifier: 55-32-31 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:29:32
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Chicago: “The Evolution of Jazz; 31; Bop Instrumentation, Part Two,” 1954-06-11, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 23, 2024,
MLA: “The Evolution of Jazz; 31; Bop Instrumentation, Part Two.” 1954-06-11. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 23, 2024. <>.
APA: The Evolution of Jazz; 31; Bop Instrumentation, Part Two. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from