In Ken Raphael’s discourse on the Big Bands After Swing last month, he discussed the impact of the war on the musicians, the demise of the dancehall, the development of smaller bands, and the drive for the music to provide greater individual freedom of expression, stepping away from the stereotyped chord changes that dominated the propulsive dance rhythms of swing.

And then there was Dizzy …

Dizzy Gillespie started on his career with Teddy Hill’s Orchestra and joined Cab Calloway in 1939. He began his ‘Chinese Music’ experiments, always trying to break out from the bonds of swing. By the time he was fired in 1941 he had met Charlie Parker, with whom he joined Earl Hines’ Big Band, and then Billy Eckstine. In 1945 he teamed up with Parker to make recordings and by then had developed his own bebop style. This led to the formation in 1946 of his orchestra that lasted for four years. He had as sidemen not just the original four members of the Modern Jazz Quartet but JJ Johnson, Yusuf Lateef, and the young John Coltrane. This was the most successful period for bebop, but it never became the ‘fad’ they wanted. Perhaps it was because it was mu – sic to listen to, not dance to, that it never captured the audience that swing had. Gillespie led big bands from 1956, when he was leader of a US State Department tour of the Middle East and earned the nickname ‘Ambassador of Jazz’. He took a band to the 1957 Newport jazz festival where he recorded a live album. He had a major influence on Afro-Cuban music working with Chano Pozo. Together they wrote and produced Manteca, a foundational tune of Afro-Cuban jazz, and in the 1980’s Dizzy led the United Nations Orchestra. He ceased recording and touring in 1992. Bebop held the attention of musicians anxious to break away from swing during the last half of the 1940s and did so through the work of small groups, quartets, or quintets. These arrangements took the music further into what became ‘Cool Jazz’ or ‘West Coast Jazz’. The playing of larger bands such as those led by Gillespie and Stan Kenton was influenced by bebop, and they soon began experimenting with Afro-Cuban rhythms based upon those popularised in New York by the Machito Orchestra under trumpeter Mario Bauza. The growth of Afro-Cuban jazz continued with vigour in the 1950s. In December 1950 producer Norman Granz recorded the successful Afro-Cuban Jazz Suite, which featured the Machito Orchestra along with soloists Charlie Parker on alto saxophone, Buddy Rich on drums, Flip Phillips on tenor, and Harry (‘Sweets’) Edison on trumpet, with arrangements by Arturo (‘Chico’) O’Farrill. Meanwhile Gil Evans and Miles Davis with Gerry Mulligan and others collaborated on forming a nonet in 1948. The size allowed the arranger to achieve a more orchestral sound bringing horns and tuba to the more traditional quintet of trumpets, saxophones, piano, drums and bass. The nonet played at The Royal Roost as the intermission band at a Count Basie concert in August 1948. In 1949 and 1950 Capitol Records recorded 12 numbers that would form the nucleus of The Birth of the Cool which was reissued in 1957 as an LP. The group returned to the Royal Roost later in September 1948, and recordings from 4 September and 18 September 1948 were included on the 1998 Complete Birth of the Cool CD. There was a further short residency the following year at the Clique Club, but the nonet was not a financial success, and disbanded. In 1949 Davis had a contract with Capitol to record twelve sides for 78 rpm singles. He reformed the nonet to record three sessions in January and April 1949 and March 1950. Davis, Konitz, Mulligan, and Barber were the only musicians who played on all three sessions, though the instrumental line-up was constant (excepting some omission of piano). This nonet is so important in the history of jazz that it must be included in any study of (big) bands after swing. It would be the progenitor of the concert jazz band or jazz orchestras with which the next article in this series will be concerned, although as always, the exceptions are Duke Ellington and Count Basie who led jazz orchestras long before, and long after, the nonet assembled and disbanded.

By Ken Raphael.

Click here to read Part 1 of The (Big) Band after Swing in case you missed it!