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

WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC, a memoir by PHILIP GLASS

WORDS WITHOUT MUSIC, a memoir by PHILIP GLASS

Recently when interviewing Princess Chelsea (aka Chelsea Nikkel), the conversation turned to how cheap is to make and put out music these days. She laughed and said she'd done her album... > Read more

JIM DeROGATIS INTERVIEWED (2011): Nothing if not critical

JIM DeROGATIS INTERVIEWED (2011): Nothing if not critical

Rock critic, writer and most recently university lecturer Jim DeRogatis doesn't pull his punches, but keeps a sense of humour, about his music and its stars. With Gregg Kot, he has hosted Sound... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

BO CARTER AND HIS RUDE BLUES (2015): Putting more than just his pin in your cushion

BO CARTER AND HIS RUDE BLUES (2015): Putting more than just his pin in your cushion

There are two peculiar and distinctive features about the career of bluesman Bo Carter (1893-1964). It's not that he sang rude, double-entendre songs – many blues artists did that... > Read more

Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

Kevin Field, Ron Samsom, Olivier Holland: Irony (Rattle)

There's an old joke: if you want to make a million dollars out of jazz, start with two million. Jazz is notoriously unprofitable for its performers and record companies (a decent selling jazz... > Read more