From Cool Jazz to Soul Jazz

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Cool Jazz

Cool jazz followed bop but was entirely different in mood, in its approach to arranging, and even in its choices of instruments. World War II was over-the country was relaxed and jazz relaxed.

In this era, which began in 1947, many instruments were used in jazz for the first time. Softer-sounding instruments, unamplified, created a different mood from that expressed earlier. The G.I. Bill made schooling possible for many jazz players, which encouraged experimentation in jazz that had been previously ignored: new meters, longer forms, and explorations in orchestration. Longer forms were also made possible by the introduction of long-playing records.

Although Lester Young came primarily out of the swing style and Miles Davis out of the bop style, they are two of the players associated with the development of the cool style. Young’s contribution was the relaxed sound and style of his playing. Davis’s work with Gil Evans that led to the recording of the “Birth of the Cool” signaled the beginning of that period. Although these first recordings appeared in New York, many of the later cool groups worked out of Los Angeles and were former members of the Stan Kenton band. Players like Gerry Mulligan, Shelly Manne, and Stan Getz were often associated with this “West Coast” style. Listen to Young’s style on “Lester Leaps In” and Davis’s “Boplicity” to hear examples of the cool sound. Also, listen to Miles Davis on “Summertime” to hear sonorous sounds typical of Gil Evans’s arrangements.

The cool sound was exemplified by players like Paul Desmond on alto saxophone, Chet Baker on trumpet, and George Shearing on piano. These players all typified the relaxed sound and manner of performance associated with cool.

Hard Bop Jazz

When introduced, bop was as unpopular as swing had been popular. The complexity of the style often left the audience behind. The funky players were interested in recapturing the audience and reestablishing the hot jazz expression that had been abandoned by the cool style. This return was enthusiastic and reached back to the most communicative music in their past- church music. Another motive, less defined and certainly debatable, was the need to reclaim jazz as a predominantly African-American expression. Cool, and particularly West Coast jazz, was predominantly white even though Davis and Young were the forerunners. The structured, soft-spoken arrangements were certainly more typical of the European tradition than the expressive African-American voice heard in the early blues.

Hard Bop influenced other musical forms beginning in 1955 and thus transcending all future jazz styles. The public accepted this moving music joyful and appreciated the opportunity to participate once again in jazz performances. Funky jazz uses simpler harmonies, an emphasis on rhythm, easily recognizable tunes, and anything else that players like Horace Silver could invent to increase the audience’s involvement and pleasure. Gospel jazz is an extension of funky jazz. Funky jazz can be heard in the performances of Bobby Timmons with Art Blakey, as well as with Cannonball Adderly. The adoption of gospel idioms by Les McCann could place his performances in the church as easily as on stage or in the night club.

West Coast Jazz

The West Coast (or The Coast) was an established jazz center by the 1920s and the first black New Orleans-style band to make records, Kid Ory’s did so in Los Angeles in 1922. But what is usually meant by West Coast jazz is a particular type of mutant modernism that became popular in the early 1940s.

Its most typical sounds were associated with former sidemen of the Stan Kenton and Woody Herman bands such as Shorty Rogers and Shelly Manne, who specialized in a brand of easily palatable filleted bebop. The melodies were especially rhythmic, predictability as much of their material was by superior soloists, people like Bud Shank and Art Pepper. The occasional use of European-style counterpoint and instruments such as flute and oboe was greeted with more enthusiasm than seems justified in retrospect. Other, more distinctive, sound from the groups of Gerry Mulligan and Dave Brubeck were classified for geographical reasons as West Coast jazz, but the movement as a whole is associated with a watering–down of 1940s bebop, just as European tradition of the 1950s diluted the 1940s New Orleans revival.

Probably more significant in terms of historical impact was the West Coast Blues movement of the late l940s and early 1950s. Groups such as those of Roy Milton and Joe Liggins provided considerable input into the newly defined field of rhythm-and-blues, while leaders such as T-Bone Walker incorporated the style of amplified guitar work that was to become so crucial in the development of rock and roll. During the 1960s, West Coast Jazz fit into the mold of the Cool style.

Free Jazz

Free jazz is one name for the music of Ornette Coleman, Cecil Taylor, Albert Ayler, and their colleagues and disciples. Though Coleman and Taylor had recorded before the ’60s, the free jazz term was not common until then. The free designation derives from Coleman’s decision to offer performances that were not always organized according to preset melody, tempo, or progression of accompaniment chords. Freedom from these guidelines allows improvisers a greater degree of spontaneity than was available in previous jazz styles.

Though non-musicians find much of Coleman’s music indistinguishable from bebop, musicians make distinctions according to the methods used (lack of preset chords) and the melodic vocabulary (original not bebop-derived). Much of Cecil Taylor’s music is extremely active. It is densely packed with rapidly shifting layers of complex harmonies and rhythms. And some recordings of Albert Ayler, Pharoah Sanders, and Ornette Coleman include loud screeches and shrieks from trumpets and saxophones, combined with non-repetitive, highly complex sounds from basses and drums. For these reasons, some listeners equate the term “free jazz” with high-energy, seemingly chaotic group improvisations, even though freedom from adhering to preset chord progressions does not necessitate high “energy” playing or any particular tone qualities or ways of organizing tones for melodic lines. For example, some of John Coltrane’s music of the middle 1960s is often classified with “free” jazz, probably because of its collectively improvised turbulence, despite its using preset arrangements of the harmonies guiding the improvisers.

Bossa Nova

Bossa Nova is a style of Brazilian popular song that was most successful in the early 1960s. Strangely cool by comparison with other exportable by the harmonic language of West Coast Jazz, it soon acquired a permanent place in the international middle of the road music.

It has also repaid its debt to the West Coast by entering the repertoire of all easy listening jazz players everywhere. The performers who played Bossa Nova gained almost a cult following in the decades that followed, thanks in large part to Jazz Festivals.

Jazz/Rock Fusion

As jazz developed its cannon and rock and roll filled its role as America’s popular music, a new crossover began between the two musical styles. This musical crossover eventually became known as fusion in the jazz community beginning around 1965. Jazz began to import rock’s instruments, volume, and stylistic delivery.

Like bop, fusion did not occur without controversy. As jazz was establishing its legitimacy, it was taking a risk by fusing with rock. Rock also represented a generational division in the American profile. It accompanied the emergence of the post- World War II baby boom to adolescence. It was the first associated exclusively with the young generation and worked as a banner distinction. Its further association with the social and political polarity of the 1960s tended to reinforce the generation lines. Jazz criticism at that time was founded in the swing and, to a lesser extent, the bop traditions. Rock fusion represented a commercialization of an emerging American art form. As the popularity of rock was carried by the baby boom into the adult listening market, its possible fusion seemed guaranteed.

The earliest notable fusion experiments happened again under the guidance of Miles Davis in his albums In a Silent Way and Bitches Brew. This later album included players who later form the most popular fusion groups.

The most prominent later fusion groups belonged to former Davis players, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and Wayne Shorter. At the time, this style offered a new virtuosity which, like earlier technical approaches, has become a part of common practice.

Neobop Jazz

By the early 1980ís, the jazz of yesteryear had been all but swallowed up in the drastic musical direction which the 70ís free jazz and jazz fusion brought. Young and upcoming jazz players longed for the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of the bebop and hard bop eras. Spearheaded by players such as Wynton Marsalis, Jeff Watts, Kenny Kirkland, and others, neobop formed in the early 80ís into a viable outlet for a new generation of jazz players influenced by both bop forms and by the current challenges of todayís society. Being a newly developing style, neobop is continually evolving while finding its place in jazz history. New players (such as Roy Hargrove, Joshua Redman, and Benny Green) influenced not only by classic bop artists but also influenced by the originators of the neobop style continue to bring new unique individual sounds helping to develop the style to newer levels accomplishment.

Soul Jazz

Soul Jazz came partly from the funky subcategory of hard bop. Its earthy, bluesy melodic concept and the repetitive, dance-like rhythmic aspects stood as higher priorities than the invention of complex harmonies and intricate solo improvisations jazz swing feeling was foremost. Considerably simplified-often only a hint of bebop harmony or rhythmic complexity remained–soul-jazz became the form of hard bop known to the largest audience, particularly in the music of Jimmy Smith, Shirley Scott, Jack McDuff, Richard “Groove” Holmes, Jimmy McGriff, Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann, Hank Crawford, Stanley Turrentine, and Houston Person. Soul Jazz combined the urban, electrified Chicago harp style with that of California swing bands and added a touch of Philadelphia tenor sax jazz from the 1960s.

Note that some listeners make no distinction between soul-jazz, and funky hard bop and many musicians don’t consider soul-jazz to be continuous with hard bop They consider it more an extension of the jazz-influenced popular music called rhythm and blues (as exemplified by Earl Bostic, King Curtis, Clifford Scott, Junior Walker, Bill Doggett). Also remember that many bebop musicians chose to play simply and with bluesy vocabularies for selected contexts: for instance, Kenny Burrell, Stanley Turrentine, J.J. Johnson, Grant Green, David “Fathead” Newman, Gene Ammons, and Ray Bryant. Their overall output is not funky, though a few pieces on isolated recordings meet all the above criteria for soul-jazz. The term, Soul Jazz, has also been linked to the soul singing sound that brought Motown to prominence in the 1960s. When these vocals were added to jazz it often took on the flavor of popular soul music and funk. Artists such as Nina Simon and Lou Rawls added to the vocal expressions of this jazz form, which gave newer audiences an appreciation for jazz.


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