Late 20th-Century Jazz: New Beats for a Changed World

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Welcome to THIS IS AMERICA in VOA Special English.  I'm Faith Lapidus.  Today we have the second of two reports about the history of jazz.  Last week, we talked about how this kind of music began.  As the years passed, jazz changed and grew in many directions.  Today, Steve Ember and Shirley Griffith talk about American jazz since World War Two.


After World War Two, swing jazz became less popular.  Americans began to listen to different sounds.  One was bebop, also called bop. Young musicians had created this music earlier in the nineteen forties. They included trumpet player Dizzy Gillespie, alto saxophone player Charlie Parker and piano players Thelonious Monk and Bud Powell.

Bebop gained popularity slowly. The music had unexpected breaks and many notes.  But many people learned to like it.  Listen now as Dizzy Gillespie and His All Star Quintet play "Salt Peanuts."


In the nineteen fifties, hard bebop gained popularity.  This music borrowed from traditional jazz sounds like blues and religious music.  Drum player Art Blakey and piano player Horace Silver became especially famous for hard bebop.  Blakey led a group called Jazz Messengers for thirty-five years.  Some of the greatest jazz players performed with this group.  Here is Horace Silver playing "Doodlin' " with the Jazz Messengers.


Cool jazz also became popular in the  nineteen fifties. Saxophone player Lester Young and guitar player Charlie Christian helped create this music years earlier.  Cool jazz instruments sound softer than in bebop.  And the rhythm is more even.

Stan Getz, Woody Herman and Gerry Mulligan earned fame for this music.  People loved cool jazz played by the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, the Modern Jazz Quartet, and the Dave Brubeck Quartet.  Listen as the Dave Brubeck group plays "Take Five."


Jazz gained many new listeners in the nineteen fifties. People went to jazz clubs and bought jazz recordings.  The introduction of the long-playing record also helped the music become more popular.  People could listen to a long piece or a number of short pieces without changing the record.

The first big American jazz event was held at Newport, Rhode Island, in nineteen fifty-four.  Now jazz musicians celebrate these festivals around the world.

Jazz developed in several directions during the nineteen fifties.  Classical musician Gunther Schuller wrote new orchestra pieces with jazz expert John Lewis.  This music combined modern jazz and classical concert music.

In this same period, Miles Davis recorded new sounds in written music and music created during performances.  Famous jazz artists like saxophone players John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley performed in the Miles Davis Sextet.  Here is the group playing "So What."


In nineteen sixty, the great saxophone player Ornette Coleman recorded a collection called "Free Jazz."  Coleman and his group played unstructured music.  John Coltrane also developed new music during the nineteen sixties.  For example, he played jazz influenced by the music of India.  Other musicians began playing jazz with unusual timing.

But a new kind of music--rock and roll -- also grew very popular in the nineteen sixties.  People throughout the world listened to the rock music of Elvis Presley and groups like the Beatles.  The new music cut deeply into the popularity of jazz.

During the nineteen-seventies, some jazz musicians began playing jazz that sounded like rock.  This fusion jazz added rock instruments and rhythm to traditional themes and creative inventions of jazz.  Electronic music also helped develop fusion jazz.  Here is guitar player George Benson playing his version of "Come Together." Two members of the Beatles wrote this song.



Minimalism in jazz became popular in the nineteen eighties.  This music repeats simple groups of notes over a long period. Musicians like trombone player George Lewis experimented with mixing several kinds of jazz.

Also in the nineteen eighties, trumpet player Wynton Marsalis helped lead a return to more traditional jazz.  This mainstream jazz borrows sounds from swing, bebop and cool jazz. Marsalis also played other kinds of jazz.  And he performed classical music with symphony orchestras. He is one of the most praised musicians.  Listen to Wynton Marsalis play  "Deep Creek."


Today, jazz musicians play all kinds of music.  Their jazz can sound like swing or bebop.  It can sound like rock and roll.  It can sound like American Western music.  It can sound like the music of several nations and ethnic groups.  Or, it can sound  traditional.

We leave you now with a traditional song, "My Foolish Heart," played by the Oscar Peterson jazz group.


This program was written by Jerilyn Watson.  It was produced by Cynthia Kirk.  Our studio engineer was Holly Capehart.  I'm Shirley Griffith.

  And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.