JAZZ: Scott DeVeaux, W.W. Norton & Company


So there's a way in which jazz textbooks tend to emphasize the musical evolution but at the same time there is a way of looking at bebop that says, no, this is a completely different kind of music. This is a music that is looking at the status quo and saying no, we want to do something completely different. In fact, by calling it bebop you are almost threatening the idea that it is still the same, you know, part of the same overall framework of swing. Even Charlie Parker once said that bebop is not jazz, it's something new and different. All of this has to do with race; it has to do with the politics of the time.

And I would say that the Second World War is in many ways the beginning of the modern Civil Rights movement. It is the beginning of the time when black musicians or black people generally, but black musicians had the ability to do this quite early on, were beginning to say we cannot put up with the way the country is devised, we have to have a new way of dealing with things. And bebop in essence is a music that is – its whole emotional atmosphere partakes of that kind of way of thinking about race.

People like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker have in their – the whole way that they are presenting themselves on stage, a way of contradicting people's understanding of jazz as entertainment music. Dizzy Gillespie, by doing it through his particular, in some ways intensely sarcastic, sense of humor, and Charlie Parker by simply ignoring the public. I mean, he played completely straight and looking like somebody who was not really trying to put on a particular kind of show but nevertheless was doing something so extraordinary that he sort of created a whole new kind of music. But all of this stuff was really designed to create a kind of music that would disturb and upset people, making people aware that there is a new kind of music that corresponds to a new social reality.