The jazz form bebop, sometimes called bop, came into its own during the demise of the big band swing era in the 1940s. It contained more improvisation and smaller group combos. This article brings four of the most famous bebop North Carolina musicians into focus.
In 1917, one of the world’s greatest jazz musicians, Thelonious Monk, was born in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. He moved to New York City and played at Milton’s Playhouse alongside jazz legends Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. Together they combined their rare talents that contributed tremendously to what evolved into bebop. Later Monk recorded with Blue Note records while playing with Coleman Hawkins.
Thelonious Monk later composed many jazz standards that are still played today. He was definitely one of the giants of the jazz era and had much influence on future generations of jazz musicians.
Another famous bebop musician, Max Roach, came from Newland, North Carolina and was born in 1924. Many jazz enthusiasts consider Max the world’s greatest jazz drummer. He was instrumental in developing the bebop style with his unique tone and attack approach. Many of the musicians that created the bebop style knew and played with one another. He hung with most of the same players as Monk jammed with.
In 1926, out of Hamlet, North Carolina, emerged one of the greatest jazz saxophone players of all time. John Coltrane, nicknamed Trane. He used his leadership ability and creative talents to combine modal musicality using bebop as the basis.
Trane’s performances with another saxophonist, Jimmy Heath, brother of bassist Percy Heath, provided an exciting element to his playing. This new-found nonconformity added to the elegance of his approach. John Coltrane is well regarded as one of the best in jazz and bebop.
On the east coast of North Carolina materialized the skilful jazz bassist Percy Heath. Percy was born in the coastal city of Wilmington, N.C. in 1930. He was known for his ability to play many styles of jazz, including bebop. One of the main groups he played with was the Modern Jazz Quartet. The group toured for many years before breaking up over disagreements, which is a common thing that happens among musicians.
It is no coincidence that these four musicians could have formed their own quartet and may have all played together at one time. North Carolina is a hotbed of talented musicians that have contributed immensely to American music. Piedmont Blues was also born out of this prodigious state. The world will have to wait and see what else will develop from here. Be certain it isn’t over ’til the fat lady sings.
Other Yahoo! Voices Articles by Dave Bolick:
Blues Societies and Clubs in North Carolina
The Blue Sky Boys Bill and Earl Bolick