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Scat and Bebop Jazz History

Table of Contents

Scat

"Anyone who attempts to sing extemporaneously, that is scat, will tell you that the hardest aspect of that kind of singing is to stay in tune. You are wondering all over the scales, the notes coming out of your mouth a millisecond after you think of them."

Scat is the art of creating an instrumental-style improvisation vocally. This requires a vocabulary of vowels and consonants related less to identifiable words and more to the tone and articulation of jazz instrumentalists such as in the trumpet-like “Oop-Pop-a-Da” by Babs Gonzales or Sarah Vaughan’s saxophonic “Shulie-abop.” first done on records by Louis Armstrong.

Scat is most closely associated by the general public with Ella Fitzgerald and her many imitators. Brought to an early peak of perfection by Leo Watson who, by introducing occasional real words inspired the development of a vocal-orchestra.

Louis Armstrongís improvisational approach to written lyrics, mixing, jumbling, and reinventing the words along expressive musical lines, echoed new directions in jazz. As early as 1926, Armstrong dropped the lyrics to “The Hebbie Jeebies” and spontaneously substituted scatting for the words. The technique was copied so often that an actual jazz form developed. Paul Whitemanís Rhythm Boys, featuring Bing Crosby, were thought to be the first white group to use the scat style. Whitemanís national radio programs promoted scat, however, it wasnít until Ella Fitzgerald adopted the styles that scat became a house-hold word.

Ella seemed to add dazzle to scatting and clearly defined it as a vocal improvisation using phonetic sounds similar to the instrumental sounds of jazz. To paraphrase a popular song, if Louis named scat, Ella claimed it! With her recording of “Flying Home” (thought to be her first scat based song, released in 1947) she introduced variations of scat that showcased a segment of songs made famous by other performers. These sampling, variations included the works of Lionel Hampton, Chick Webb, Slam Stewart, and Dizzy Gillespie. In fact, the recording also showed that Ella was already educated on the fast emerging bebop movement.

Other singers added to the early ideas of scat including Fletcher Hendersonís Orchestra. During the bebop era, Sarah Vaughan was able to vocalize much of the notes that Charlie Parker was playing. Vaughan was also key in bringing jazz, and scat into the American home, with a number of radio and TV programs beginning in the late 1960s. In more recent years, Mel Torme gained fame as a scat singer, again keeping the style alive, thanks to his recordings and world tours. Today scat has scaled new heights of virtuosity with such performers as Bobby McFerrin, who was even able to put a few scat songs on the Top 40 Charts during the late 1980s and early 90s.

BeBop

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 in 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 musicís 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 the 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 impossible 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.

History Of The Jazz Age

A brief history of jazz graph/chart

History Of The Jazz Age

A brief history of jazz graph/chart
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Top 15 Famous Jazz Clarinet Players

Top 15 Famous Jazz Clarinet Players

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Benny Goodman, The King Of Swing

One of the most important clarinetists and bandleaders of jazz and swing music

Benny Goodman, The King Of Swing

One of the most important clarinetists and bandleaders of jazz and swing music
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