BEBOP OR COOL SCHOOL?

ALL THAT JAZZ: ARE YOU BEBOP OR A COOL CAT

"My theory is that when it comes to important subjects, there are only two ways a person can answer... For instance, there are only two kinds of people in the world, Beatles people and Elvis people… but nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice. And that choice, tells you who you are." Mia Wallace, Pulp Fiction.


Whether it is New York or California, double-breasted or single-breasted suits, Capote or Vidal, the gentlemen of the 21st century are often faced with important choices. Today, we discuss one of these larger questions: which jazz genre are you? Bebop or cool?

First, bebop surfaced in early 1940s America as the war-torn child of swing jazz. Mostly improvised, bebop uses deft artistry to create phrases that emphasise off beats, asymmetrical patterns and avoids traditional musical resolutions. Bebop is lightning quick jazz, mathematical but hip at the same time.


So are you the fast talker at parties, arriving in your undershirt when everyone else is donned in barrel-cuffs and four-in-hand knots? Do you light a cigarette before you’ve finished the last and wear your sweat on your brow like cologne? If so, then you my frenetic friend, are bebop. For reference, your artists of choice are most likely Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker and Thelonius Monk.

(Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie - Hot House, 1952)

Now, on the other hand, the cool school of jazz followed the Second World War in the late 1940s, establishing peacetime with relaxed tempos, a lighter tone and softer instrumentation. Where bebop is fiercely improvised, cool jazz is melodic and arranged, pitch perfect while still aching with urban mood.


So do you share quiet conversations and worn hardcovers? Do you spend your nights walking the boulevards, watching the moonrise in puddles or gentling cradling a glass of Scotch in softly lit clubs? If so, then you, my smooth sailor, are cool jazz. For reference, your artists of choice are likely John Coltrane, Gerry Mulligan and Stand Getz.


(John Coltrane and Miles Davis: So What)


Whether you are bebop or cool jazz, there is one thing universal- Miles Davis. This jazz pioneer was both bebop master and cool school father. Bebop boppers should check out his Birth of the Cool (1957) and cool school cats should play Kind of Blue (1959). No matter your choice, Miles Davis is a gentleman’s king, a guiding light and morning star in all that jazz…
 

27 March 2013
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