Beyond Bebop

This lesson will briefly identify the characteristics of several styles that came after bebop. All of them are quite significant and should be studied in depth for a more comprehensive understanding of each.


Cool was somewhat of a reaction against Bop and using our yardstick of the following style being the opposite of the preceeding one we find this to be quite true in every category. Cool is the least well defined jazz style. It was an attitude as well that called for keeping emotions in check and being "cool". It is sometimes referred to as "West Coast jazz. This due mainly to the fact that many players were situated on the West Coast but it was played everywhere. There were a lot of white musicians involved in the movement which was the opposite of the Bebop movement. However ther were players of both ethnic backgrounds that were important to this style. One of these was Miles Davis. One of the most important figures in the history of jazz. He was the leader on some recording sessions that became known as the "Birth of the Cool" sessions. The album by the same name is one of the classic jazz albums of all time.


As the name might indicate all musical ingredients were now cool, reserved, controlled, etc.

Instrumentation: The Cool movement featured larger groups like nonets (9), octets (8), septets (7), etc. The actual instrumentation included instruments that were not common to jazz, like flute, French horn, flugelhorn and tuba.

Texture/Timbre: Not only were the instruments of a "softer" nature, but how they and the other normal instruments were played was different. Players tended to play softer, in the middle range of the horn with less vibrato and VERY controlled. The emphasis was on a light and buoyant sound Drummers used brushes instead of sticks in keeping with the "cool" attitude. The music was more arranged and had a polished, smooth sound.

Tempo: Tempos were generally slower and more relaxed.

Solos: Solos were more melodic, easier to understand and follow.

Some of the major players were Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Bud Shank, the Modern Jazz Quartet, Lester Young, Lennie Tristano and Lee Konitz.. Many of whom had come from the big bands of Count Basie, Stan Kenton and Woody Herman.


Possibly one of the least popular styles in the history of jazz is this one. Experimental, dissonant, abrasive, are all adjectives for the avant-garde style. In this style there is a conscious attempt to push the envelope of all the musical elements. Many of the groups did not use a piano in order to free them from normal harmonic progressions. Individual instruments were played in a fashion unlike anything that had gone before. Squeeks, squawks, multi-phonics(playing two notes at a time), altissimo playing (the extreme high register), rhythmic freedom, harsh tone quality, all can be found in the avant-garde. One of the most influential players is saxophonist Ornette Coleman. His album "Free Jazz" is where the movement got its name. Another important player is pianist Cecil Taylor. His style of playing concentrated on obtaining textures rather than recognizable melodies. Another player who is as major hallmark in the history is tenor saxophonist John Coltrane. One of his style periods was avant-garde and he pushed the tenor saxophone to new extremes. He was a very charasmatic person who had an influence on many, many players. He also was an innovator in the style of playing called modal jazz. This was a different approach to playing that featured a much slower harmonic rhythm (fewer chords) that allowed the soloist to concentrate on melodic invention. (This style was before the avant-garde)


This term covers a wide range of styles including jazz-rock, funk, pop-fusion, avante-garde fusion, etc. Again one of the innovators in this style was Miles Davis. His album "Bitches Brew" is another pivotal album in the history of jazz. Not only was it a fusion of rock and jazz but one of the first albums to use electric instruments (electric bass, Fender-Rhodes piano, electric guitar) instead of acoustic instruments. In some cases two or more pianos or basses were used at the same time. There were several players on "Bitches Brew" that went on to long and distinguished careers, among them pianists Chic Corea and Joe Zawinul, guitarist John McLaughlin and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. There are some general characteristics that distinguish funk and rock from jazz.

1. Fewer chord changes.
2. More repetition of both chords and melodic phrases.
3. Chords are less comlpex.
4 Drums play simpler, repetive patterns.
5. Much less improvisation.

There are many, many important players and groups in the various fusion styles. Some of them are Chic Corea’s Return to Forever and The Electric Band, Weather Report, The Mahavishnu Orcherstra, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters. Some of the more current groups include Pat Metheny, the Yellowjackets and Spyro-Gyra. There are an increasing number of groups that play a tremendous range of music thereby making it difficult to put them in any one category. There are certainly is enough variety out to satisfy the most discriminating of fans.