Music After BeBop - Cool Jazz and Hard Bop: 1950's

By the end of the 1940s, new trends were in the air: offshoots of BeBop were cropping up. A new group of young musicians of the highest caliber of training began to adapt the BeBop sound to further experimentation. By the outset of the 1950s two of these experimental styles were attracting the most attention: Cool Jazz and Hard Bop, both equally indebted to the Bop techniques yet extending it in opposite stylistic directions. Cool Jazz, also known as "Progressive Jazz" and "West Coast Jazz," was the first significant white musicians' response to BeBop. Most of the earliest Cool Jazz musicians, such as Gerry Mulligan, Chet Baker, Dave Brubeck, and Paul Desmond, were virtuoso performers on their various instruments, with musical conservatory training. It is significant that BeBop was the first jazz style of sufficient musical complexity to attract the interest of classically-trained performers and composers. Cool Jazz actually encompasses a range of individual approaches by various Cool groups.

What these all had in common was what was known as the "cool sound," a low key, almost recessive level of instrumental attack and articulation, coupled with a "cool" instrumental tone quality: a pure and airy sound produced by blowing clear straight tones on a horn while letting breath escaped into the sound. This cool surface sound was linked to the technical intricacies of BeBop. Where Bebop, as one critic observed, had an internal intensity masked by a cool outer shell (the "surface" cool of the bopster) Cool Jazz musicians "lowered the temperature" of the inner core, producing a remarkably introverted jazz style, imbued with a feeling of tranquility. Initially, Cool Jazz was cultivated by small, bop-like combos (a quartet, quintet, or sextet) improvising on both popular songs and abstract "chart" melodies. But newly-emerging modern jazz composers applied the Cool sound to extended compositions for jazz orchestra. Such abstract compositions were widely employed in the 1950's and 60's for Hollywood and European film scores, used to evoke a modern urban atmosphere. Initially a style cultivated by White musicians, African-American musicians like Miles Davis crossed over to the style, creating a unique "Cool-Funk" fusion. Davis applied the ethereal, introverted cool sound to swinging blues-type pieces, a style that was to have a lasting impact on jazz for the next few decades. Hard Bop was the antithesis of Cool Jazz: it was an intense and aggressive post-Bop style that was cultivated as a reaction against the low-key Cool sound. Where Cool Jazz explored the sober, "laid back" surface manner of Bop players, Hard Bop reasserted Bop's underlying intensity. Where Cool Jazz exploited soft-edged instrumental tones, Hard Bop exploited hard-edged, strident instrumental tones. Cool Jazz players projected their improvised lines with a steady flow of slackly phrased notes,

Hard Bop players projected improvised lines that were aggressively loud and angular. Cool Jazz players performed with an introverted sophistication, Hard Bop players performed with an extroverted funkiness. Among the key exponents of Hard Bop were the Horace Silver Quintet and Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers.