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The Differences Between Bebop, Free Jazz and Fusion Music

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Music
Wordcount: 2163 words Published: 24th Aug 2021

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First of all, there are various differences between the styles of bebop, cool, hard bop, free jazz, and fusion. Bebop seems to be the most intricate with its erratic tempos, while cool is the most soothing and relaxing. On the other hand, hard bop is the most brassy and dynamic with its horns, trumpets, and rhythm section, while free jazz is the less restricted. Free jazz exhibits no boundaries, no form, and no newly established rules. Fusion is a combination between jazz and rock, in other words, fusion exhibits extreme electronic use, effects, and synthesizers, in addition to jazz elements.

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Bebop transformed jazz from fashionable dance music to creative art music. In the early 1940s, bebop seemed to have emerged all of a sudden, but it had actually been developing for several years. When Art Pepper, an alto saxophonist, initially heard a bop recording, it completely overwhelmed him. The notes of a typical bebop piece are quick, technical, more elaborative, and swung. The characteristics of bebop include erratic tempos, reharmonization and chord substitution, as well as arbitrary melodies. Bebop put more emphasis on extensive, improvised solos.

Manteca, a recording by Dizzy Gillespie and His Orchestra, contains a few characteristics of bebop. However, the tempos of Manteca are not excessively fast or too slow. In this recording, Gillespie created the Afro-Cuban style alongside Chano Pozo, a Cuban percussionist of the conga. Manteca contains phenomenal improvised trumpet solos and shout-like but subtle vocals of the word “Manteca”. The “Manteca” shouting in various random parts of the recording is quite amusing. In the introduction, multiple instruments begin its playing in unison, such as the bass, bongos, saxes, and brass. In particular, the bongos sound very intriguing and high-pitched. Dizzy Gillespie’s trumpet solos are exceptionally fantastic. Evidently, there is call-and-response between the brass section and other instruments. There are improvised solos in the connection to each chorus. This recording sounds blissful, jungle-like, and jubilant. The arrangement in Manteca is quite spectacular. Manteca sounds Cuban-like, fiery, and passionate.

Another bebop recording, Koko, by Charlie Parker’s Reboppers is regarded as one of the first bebop recording. The recording, Koko is baffling and aggressive, in which displays attributes and chords that are built on a swing recording called Cherokee. Like a typical bebop recording, Koko displays significant improvised solos. The arrangements are straightforward. Charlie Parker exhibits an extraordinary talent on his alto saxophone solos that only few saxophonists can match. The piano playing is not quite noticeable, but it plays gently and leisurely in the background. The drums merely accompanies alongside Parker’s alto sax playing and Gillespie’s trumpet mutes/piano playing. Parker plays in such a lightening manner in his alto sax, it’s unbelievable. The tempos in Koko are erratic, which makes it especially difficult to follow. The virtuosity of Koko sounds uncontrolled. In fact, the melodies are very unpredictable, but creative. The snare and bass drum playing by Max Roach at 2:07 is atypical because it plays in solitary. Overall, Koko is an uplifting recording that exhibits prominently rapid tempos and erratic sounding melodies.

Moving along, Boplicity is a cool/west coast style recording by the Miles Davis Nonet. Boplicity contains hardly any blues influence or any dynamic contrasts. Unlike bebop, Boplicity is much more relaxed and comforting. The solos are significantly expressive and vivid. The tempos of a typical cool/west coast style are moderate with a sedative attitude. The horn section in Boplicity is nimble and soft, not like the brassiness of a hard bop recording. At :59, a contrast from delicate ensembles of the horn moves to a tone that is a bit more adequate from the saxophone; the baritone saxophone exhibits a poignant sound. The melody and arrangement of Boplicity is moderately intricate. The horn ensemble is rich and heavy in texture. Boplicity exhibits an improvised sound, although its significance is on the arrangements. At 1:36, Davis trumpet solos with clarity. The overall tone and melody of Boplicity is light and uplifting, not at all volatile and explosive. Boplicity is the most soothing of them all.

Hard bop is a style that exhibits a hard-ridden and volatile sound from brass instruments, such as the horns and trumpets. Hard bop characteristics is a contrast to cool/west cool style. Hard bop bears influences from blues and gospel and puts more emphasis on virtuoso improvisation. Unlike the intricacy of bebop, hard bop is simpler. Backstage Sally, a recording by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers is a hard bop piece that displays a dynamic groove and brassy sound. The beginning starts with horns playing together with drums in a shuffle-like beat. The dynamics of the drums is very enthralling; in particular, drums are heavy hitting. The drums contrasts from hard hitting to moderate. Unlike the other songs, the drum in this hard bop recording is especially noticeable. At 1:03, tenor sax solos play in an expressive manner. The trumpet, trombone, and other brass instruments play in an especially brassy way, even the background riffs are noticeable brassy. Evidently, there is call-and-response between the rhythm section and front line instruments. Overall, Backstage Sally is heavily brassy, vibrant, and bluesy. Therefore, hard bop is predominantly brassy and dynamic-feel style.

Much like Backstage Sally, Boogie Stop Shuffle, a hard bop piece by the Charles Mingus Septet is brassy as well. The beginning is predominantly brassy with the horns. Boogie Stop Shuffle exhibit’s 12-bar blues in a fast playing manner. The bass plays ostinato riffs, while piano plays in a bluesy manner. The horns play in a sharp, but dissonant sound; the horns will vary and contrast from sounding like a bebop-style to hard bop. The bass line is particularly predominantly played throughout. At 2:24, there are high-pitched solos from the drum. At 3:20, the alto saxophone lets out a poignant squeal. Although, this recording does not sound nearly as brassy as Backstage Sally, it still exhibit’s brass-like sounds, especially the beginning. Boogie Stop Shuffle is a hasty played 12-bar blues piece with exceptional horns and bass riffs.

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Free jazz style is based on breaking musical rules, rather than establishing new rules; the impression of playing without boundaries in Free Jazz is significant. Unlike the other styles, free jazz exhibits atonality, dissonance, collective improvisations like that of New Orleans jazz, and no form, in the case of blues abandonment. Free Jazz contains rich-texture, great energy, and untraditional playing. Two impressive free jazz recordings are “Civilization Day” recorded by the Ornette Coleman Quarter and “Hat and Beard” recorded by the Eric Dolphy Quintet. The recording, Civilization Day, is extremely energetic, amusing, and fast-paced. Coleman exhibits passion and enthusiasm in his playing of the alto saxophone. Nearly all the instruments utilized in Civilization Day plays in a hasty manner and not very swing-like. At :24, there is unaccompanied collective improvisation from the alto sax and trumpet, generating an expressive sound. The alto sax and trumpet seems to be communicating with each other in squall-like sound. More significantly, the alto sax and trumpet play in wail-like, unusual manner. At :27, Cherry plays his trumpet with expressiveness and eccentricity. The rhythm section sounds twinkling especially because of the constant crisp ride cymbals generated from the drums. The cymbals are persistent throughout producing an ostentatious-like sound. At 1:20, the drums halt playing for a moment, while the alto sax plays improvised solos with accompaniment from non-walking bass line. From 1:35 to the end of Civilization, the crisp ride cymbals from drums will re-emerge and play persistently; at 1:57, a walking bass line emerges as well. Overall, Civilization is a very spirited and energetic free jazz recording.

Similarly, in Hat and Beard, the pace is hasty. In Hat and Beard, multiple instruments were employed, including Dolphy’s tense solos from the bass clarinet. However, the piano was discarded in this recording. Vibes were utilized in Hat and Beard to make up for the absence of the piano. The vibes is capable of generating a melodious sound or percussive sound. The improvisation is quite appealing and impressive. Dolphy exhibits expressiveness and creativeness with an obvious appreciation of musical arrangements. Its influence on hard bop and experimental jazz is distinguishable in the recording. The tempo is relatively swing-like. At :47, the vibes enter with a walking bass line that sounds amusing. The bass plays persistently throughout the recording in a persistent pattern. The vibes and drums plays alongside each other in cooperation. The vibes is significant to the sound of this recording; the vibes definitely adds to the appeal. At 1:26, Dolphy displays eccentric solos on bass clarinet generating a peculiar, wail-like, and entertaining sound. The vibes are consistent throughout as it pops up once in awhile. At 3:14, the trumpet solos are mild and soothing with the bass playing two notes concurrently. The trumpet solos sound similar to a those employed in a typical cool/jazz west coast style. Evidently, free jazz does not employ a music form. In my opinion, free jazz sounds very peculiar and interesting. Free jazz musicians seem to play however they feel. Free jazz exhibits awkward playing from various instruments, for instance, the wail-like sound of horn players. Free jazz generates awkward, dissonant sounds and prominently retains collective improvisation. Unlike hard bop, free jazz contains little brass sound.

The electrifying recording, Bitches Brew, is an ideal example of a jazz and rock fusion. Miles Davis assembled a large group for this recording, which is approximately a 12 talented group. Fusion style is quite distinct from previous styles, mainly because of the use of electronics. In this recording, there is apparently heavy use of electronic instruments and effects with a slight reduction and blend of jazz elements. Some of the electronic instruments employed in this recording were the electric bass guitar, keyboards, and electric piano. The beginning of Bitches Brew is quite spectacular, specifically playing from the electric pianos and percussionists. A rock-like rhythm and beat is employed in place of a swing-like jazz rhythm. The drums play in a funky and vigorous manner. The shaker generates an extremely vibrant sound persistently throughout, as well as the conga. At :41, Davis’s trumpet playing contains studio effects, which generates an echo-like sound. My first thought when I first heard this trumpet echo-sound is that it sounds like a war horn blowing simultaneously, but in a more eccentrically way. This trumpet echo-like effect is loud and generates an especially alluring sound. At 1:31, nearly every instrument seems to collide together, creating an even more dramatic sound; this collision among the various instruments seems to be a recurring pattern. At 1:49, trumpets play in a brief, simultaneous manner. Various other effects can be heard in this recording, including Davis’s finger snapping at the 2:51 mark. In addition, the bass ostinato is played at the 2:51 mark, similar to the ostinato utilized in Miles Davis Quintet’s Footprints. The ostinato generates a firm, concise and rhythmic musical phrase. It is evident that the effects immensely enhanced Davis’s horn playing. The bass clarinet does not seem to solo with success, but instead plays merely for its tone color. A blend of instrumental effects generates an intriguing sound. There is an extensive, improvised solo part by Miles at 3:54, while other instruments will steadily rise to its peak with increased tension. At this point, the instruments take an entirely different turn, as the instruments seem to play altogether simultaneously in a more relaxed way. In Bitches Brew, Mile’s objective seems to undertake a polyrhythmic approach, since multiple percussionists were employed. Bitches Brew, definitely generates an electric feel, like that of the fusion style characteristic.

Overall, these styles are very intriguing. I am most intrigued by fusion and free jazz. The sounds of a free jazz recording sound unusual, but interesting. Fusion is the most stirring and energizing. The most comforting style to listen to would be cool/west coast jazz because of its soft tone and playing. The most dynamic and danceable style would be hard bop because of the hard hitting drums, bluesy, and thunderous brass instrument sound. Each of these styles is distinct and unique in its own way.


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