Bebop or bop is a style of jazz developed in the early to mid-1940s in the United States, which features compositions characterized by a fast tempo, complex chord progressions with rapid chord changes and numerous changes of key, instrumental virtuosity, and improvisation based on a combination of harmonic structure, the use of scales and occasional references to the melody.
Bebop developed as the younger generation of jazz musicians expanded the creative possibilities of jazz beyond the popular, dance-oriented swing style with a new "musician's music" that was not as danceable and demanded close listening. As bebop was not intended for dancing, it enabled the musicians to play at faster tempos. Bebop musicians explored advanced harmonies, complex syncopation, altered chords, extended chords, chord substitutions, asymmetrical phrasing, and intricate melodies. Bebop groups used rhythm sections in a way that expanded their role. Whereas the key ensemble of the swing era was the big band of up to fourteen pieces playing in an ensemble-based style, the classic bebop group was a small combo that consisted of saxophone (alto or tenor), trumpet, piano, guitar, double bass, and drums playing music in which the ensemble played a supportive role for soloists. Rather than play heavily arranged music, bebop musicians typically played the melody of a composition (called the "head") with the accompaniment of the rhythm section, followed by a section in which each of the performers improvised a solo, then returned to the melody at the end of the composition.
Some of the most influential bebop artists, who were typically composer-performers, are: alto sax player Charlie Parker; tenor sax players Dexter Gordon, Sonny Rollins, and James Moody; clarinet player Buddy DeFranco; trumpeters Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Dizzy Gillespie; pianists Bud Powell, Mary Lou Williams, and Thelonious Monk; electric guitarist Charlie Christian, Joe Pass and drummers Kenny Clarke, Max Roach, and Art Blakey.
While swing music tended to feature orchestrat
While swing music tended to feature orchestrated big band arrangements, bebop music highlighted improvisation. Typically, a theme (a "head," often the main melody of a pop or jazz standard of the swing era) would be presented together at the beginning and the end of each piece, with improvisational solos based on the chords of the compositions. Thus, the majority of a piece in bebop style would be improvisation, the only threads holding the work together being the underlying harmonies played by the rhythm section. Sometimes improvisation included references to the original melody or to other well-known melodic lines ("quotes", "licks" or "riffs"). Sometimes they were entirely original, spontaneous melodies from start to finish.
Chord progressions for bebop compositions were often taken directly from popular swing-era compositions and reused with a new and more complex melody, forming new compositions (see contrafact
Chord progressions for bebop compositions were often taken directly from popular swing-era compositions and reused with a new and more complex melody, forming new compositions (see contrafact). This practice was already well-established in earlier jazz, but came to be central to the bebop style. The style made use of several relatively common chord progressions, such as blues (at base, I-IV-V, but infused with II-V motion) and 'rhythm changes' (I-VI-II-V, the chords to the 1930s pop standard "I Got Rhythm"). Late bop also moved towards extended forms that represented a departure from pop and show compositions. Bebop chord voicings often dispensed with the root and fifth tones, instead basing them on the leading intervals that defined the tonality of the chord. That opened up creative possibilities for harmonic improvisation such as tritone substitutions and use of diminished scale based improvised lines that could resolve to the key center in numerous and surprising ways.
Bebop musicians also employed several harmonic devices not typical of previous jazz. Complicated harmonic substitutions for more basic chords became commonplace. These substitutions often emphasized certain dissonant intervals such as the flat ninth, sharp ninth or the sharp eleventh/tritone. This unprecedented harmonic development which took place in bebop is often traced back to a transcendent moment experienced by Charlie Parker while performing "Cherokee" at Clark Monroe's Uptown House, New York, in early 1942. As described by Parker:
I'd been getting bored with the stereotyped changes that were being used, ... and I kept thinking there's bound to be something else. I could hear it sometimes. I couldn't play it.... I was working over "Cherokee", and, as I did, I found that by using the higher intervals of a chord as a melody line and backing them with appropriately related changes, I could play the thing I'd been hearing. It came alive.
Gerhard Kubik postulates that the harmonic development in bebop sprung from the blues, and other African-related tonal sensibilities, rather than twentieth century Western art music, as some have suggested. Kubik states: "Auditory inclinations were the African legacy in [Parker's] life, reconfirmed by the experience of the blues tonal system, a sound world at odds with the Western diatonic chord categories. Bebop musicians eliminated Western-style functional harmony in their music while retaining the strong central tonality of the blues as a basis for drawing upon various African matrices." Samuel Floyd states that blues were both the bedrock and propelling force of bebop, bringing about three main developments:
While for an outside observer the harmonic innovations in bebop would appear to be inspired by experiences in Western "serious" music, from Claude Debussy to Arnold Schoenberg, such a scheme cannot be sustained by the evidence from a cognitive approach. Claude Debussy did have some influence on jazz, for example, on Bix Beiderbecke's piano playing, and it is also true that Duke Ellington adopted and reinterpreted some harmonic devices in European contemporary music. West Coast jazz would run into such debts as would several forms of cool jazz. But bebop has hardly any such debts in the sense of direct borrowings. On the contrary, ideologically, bebop was a strong statement of rejection of any kind of eclecticism, propelled by a desire to activate something deeply buried in self. Bebop then revived tonal-harmonic ideas transmitted through the blues and reconstructed and expanded others in a basically non-Western harmonic approach. The ultimate significance of all this is that the experiments in jazz during the 1940s brought back to African-American music several structural principles and techniques rooted in African traditions.
An alternate theory would be that Bebop, like much great art, probably evolved drawing on many sources. An insightful YouTube video  has Jimmy Raney, a jazz guitarist of the time and friend of Charlie Parker, describing how Parker would show up at Raney's apartment door in search of refreshment and the music of  has Jimmy Raney, a jazz guitarist of the time and friend of Charlie Parker, describing how Parker would show up at Raney's apartment door in search of refreshment and the music of Béla Bartók, a leading 20th Century Classical Music composer. Raney describes the great knowledge and depth of understanding that Parker had with the music of Bartók and Arnold Schoenberg, in particular Pierrot Lunaire by Schoenberg and the Quartets by Bartók. Raney recounts his comment to Parker that a section from the Scherzo of the Bartók's Fifth Quartet sounded a lot like some of Parker's jazz improvisation.
The classic bebop combo consisted of saxophone, trumpet, double bass, drums and piano. This was a format used (and popularized) by both Parker (alto sax) and Gillespie (trumpet) in their 1940s groups and recordings, sometimes augmented by an extra saxophonist or guitar (electric or acoustic), occasionally adding other horns (often a trombone) or other strings (usually violin) or dropping an instrument and leaving only a quartet.
Although only one part of a rich jazz tradition, bebop music continues to be played regularly throughout the world. Trends in improvisation since its era have changed from its harmonically-tethered style, but the capacity to improvise over a complex sequence of altered chords is a fundamental part of any jazz education.
The musical devices developed with bebop were influential far beyond the bebop movement itself. "Progressive jazz" was a broad category of music that included bebop-influenced "art music" arrangements used by big bands such as those led by Boyd Raeburn, Charlie Ventura, Claude Thornhill, and Stan Kenton, and the cerebral harmonic explorations of smaller groups such as those led by pianists Lennie TristanoAlthough only one part of a rich jazz tradition, bebop music continues to be played regularly throughout the world. Trends in improvisation since its era have changed from its harmonically-tethered style, but the capacity to improvise over a complex sequence of altered chords is a fundamental part of any jazz education.
The musical devices developed with bebop were influential far beyond the bebop movement itself. "Progressive jazz" was a broad category of music that included bebop-influenced "art music" arrangements used by big bands such as those led by Boyd Raeburn, Charlie Ventura, Claude Thornhill, and Stan Kenton, and the cerebral harmonic explorations of smaller groups such as those led by pianists Lennie Tristano and Dave Brubeck. Voicing experiments based on bebop harmonic devices were used by Miles Davis and Gil Evans for the groundbreaking "Birth of the Cool" sessions in 1949 and 1950. Musicians who followed the stylistic doors opened by Davis, Evans, Tristano, and Brubeck would form the core of the cool jazz and "west coast jazz" movements of the early 1950s.
By the mid-1950s musicians began to be influenced by music theory proposed by George Russell. Those who incorporated Russell's ideas into the bebop foundation would define the post-bop movement that would later incor
By the mid-1950s musicians began to be influenced by music theory proposed by George Russell. Those who incorporated Russell's ideas into the bebop foundation would define the post-bop movement that would later incorporate modal jazz into its musical language.
Hard bop was a simplified derivative of bebop introduced by Horace Silver and Art Blakey in the mid-1950s. It became a major influence until the late 1960s when free jazz and fusion jazz gained ascendancy.
The neo-bop movement of the 1980s and 1990s revived the influence of bebop, post-bop, and hard bop styles after the free jazz and fusion eras.
Bebop style also influenced the Beat Generation whose spoken-word style drew on African-American "jive" dialog, jazz rhythms, and whose poets often employed jazz musicians to accompany them. Jack Kerouac would describe his writing in On the Road as a literary translation of the improvisations of Charlie Parker and Lester Young. The "beatnik" stereotype borrowed heavily from the dress and mannerisms of bebop musicians and followers, in particular the beret and lip beard of Dizzy Gillespie and the patter and bongo drumming of guitarist Slim Gaillard. The bebop subculture, defined as a non-conformist group expressing its values through musical communion, would echo in the attitude of the psychedelia-era hippies of the 1960s. Fans of bebop were not restricted to the United States; the music also gained cult status in France and Japan.
More recently, hip-hop artists (A Tribe Called Quest, Guru) have cited bebop as an influence on their rapping and rhythmic style. As early as 1983, Shawn Brown rapped the phrase "Rebop, bebop, Scooby-Doo" toward the end of the hit "Rappin' Duke". Bassist Ron Carter collaborated with A Tribe Called Quest on 1991's The Low End Theory, and vibraphonist Roy Ayers and trumpeter Donald Byrd were featured on Guru's Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1 in 1993. Bebop samples, especially bass lines, ride cymbal swing clips, and horn and piano riffs are found throughout the hip-hop compendium.