THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

 |   |  1 min read

Charlie Parker: Lester Leaps In (1952)
THE BIRTH OF BEBOP -- A SOCIAL AND MUSICAL HISTORY by SCOTT DEVEAUX

Suggesting that this engrossing, historically investigative and anecdotally amusing book should be reviewed because it asked the question, "Was bebop jazz a revolution or simply a musical evolution?" drew the response: "Yep, that's a question that keeps most people awake at nights."

Fair enough. But in these scrupulously annotated, occasionally academic 450 pages, this worldly and sassy associate professor of music at the University of Virginia is using the question to get inside the history and musical heart of black America.

Scott DeVeaux addresses, and sometimes out of research and necessity dismisses, important myths about the musical culture of black America in the first half of this century as he looks specifically at the schism between swing jazz and hard-blowing black bop which threw up seminal musicians such as Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonious Monk, all of whom deserve to be counted in the roll-call of great American musicians of the past century for their invention and genius.

But as the title of this engrossing book hints, this is as much a social as a musical history of the period.

The social snobbery between middle-class black musicians who went to different colleges but had high social aspirations is emblematic of one of the great unaddressed issues in any discussion of race anywhere (snobbery and social position are not race-selective), and DeVeaux grounds his discussion in economic necessity as much as the need for musical expression.

Thelonious Monk once said that jazz is about freedom. DeVeaux doesn't necessarily disagree.

But it's about much else besides, not the least matters of race, money, marketplace and the ever-changing moods of its practitioners.

If you read nothing else of DeVeaux's probing book, read the introduction where he poses that question, "Was bebop jazz a revolution or simply a musical evolution?"

It might not keep you awake, but you may find yourself reading into the night.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   Writing articles index

LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON by GREIL MARCUS

LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON by GREIL MARCUS

Music writer Marcus is so well ensconced in the pantheon of great rock writers that his books are universally hailed on publication. But this one -- a series of essays on Morrison's music... > Read more

TICKET TO RIDE by LARRY KANE: Along for the ride

TICKET TO RIDE by LARRY KANE: Along for the ride

In 1980 presidential candidate Jimmy Carter leaned over to journalist Larry Kane and said, "So I heard you toured with the Beatles. What were they like?" Even the 39th President of the... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

The Eastern: Cthulhu (RPR)

The Eastern: Cthulhu (RPR)

Here's something we like and use it draw your attention in advance of Record Store Day tomorrow. Rough Peel in Wellington has its own label and has done vinyl of albums by the Eastern,... > Read more

Milly's Peach & Blackberry (or any berry) Cake

Milly's Peach & Blackberry (or any berry) Cake

Camilla -- aka Milly -- who supplied this Firm Family Favourite says it's her "never fail, loved everywhere" recipe. Having flicked through the recipes at Elsewhere she decided there... > Read more