restricted access 5. 21st Century Bebop

From: David Baker

Indiana University Press colophon
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139 As Nathan Davis discussed in chapter 3, the most effective jazz educators are also practitioners with vast experience in the field. Historically, music education methods incorporate modeling as an effective teaching strategy. Some examples are the methods of Shin’ichi Suzuki and Edwin Gordon.1Inteachingthelanguage of jazz and its improvisatory basis and expressive use of the instrument , modeling has traditionally been a strong element exercised through mentorship and during jam sessions.2 Baker was well aware of the need to be an active performer and a model for his students when he took the job atIndiana University. Pat Harbison, who had the privilege of being a member of Baker’s small groups during his student years, points out, “One demonstration and having to go out and doing it together is worth Monik a Her zig and Brent Wall ar ab 5 21st Century Bebop 140 Monika Herzig and Brent Wallarab a thousand hours of rehearsal and someone describing the music and talking about it.”3 Inaddition,Bakerneededanoutletforhisownmusic.Consequently, he kept his Indianapolis working group that included Mingo Jones, Earl VanRiper,SherylShay,ChuckCarter,AlReeve,WillisKirk,andothers.4 But gradually, Baker gathered a group of students at Indiana University to rehearse his music. By the mid-1970s, he had developed the concept of the21stCenturyBebopBand,aperformancegroupthatrecordedseveral albums as well as performed on a regular basis for about twenty years. This chapter explores the unique concept of the group as well as learningexperiencesandmemoriesofthestudentsandvariousmembers over the years. In addition, Brent Wallarab presents a treatise on Baker’s jazzcompositionandarrangingtechniques.Bakerjustifiesthenameand repertoire of the group with the following description: “I considered it a bebop group, but a bebop group with extended roots.”5 David Baker and Dizzy Gillespie.  Courtesy of David Baker. 21st Century Bebop 141 David Baker’s 21st Century Bebop Band Monika Herzig The term “bebop” describes a specific style of jazz that evolved during the early 1940s with a new harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic vocabulary that is still considered the essence of the language of jazz. In fact, Baker expressed in an interview with Kenneth Prouty on the history of jazz education that he considers bebop the lingua franca of jazz.6 A group of musicians – including Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Kenny Clarke, Thelonious Monk, and many more who frequented after-hours jam sessions at Minton’s Playhouse in New York – was credited with developing the essence of the language. Codifying the chord and scale relationships of the bebop style became the basic building block of the jazz education movement during the 1960s, and can easily be traced in early and recent method books, beginning with George Russell’s 1953 treatise The Lydian Chromatic Concept of Tonal Organization and Improvisation. In fact, Baker’s oeuvre includes three volumes entitled How to Play Bebop, and his improvisation method features an eight-note scale that he named the bebop scale. The trademark of Baker’s teaching method is a basic vocabulary of patterns based on the bebop scale that facilitate rhythmically and melodically sound phrasing of improvisatory lines. Baker’s many generations of students have jokingly added the lyrics “David Baker Bebop” to the pattern that is usually introduced at the very beginning of the Jazz Improvisation I class. The bebop era also featured a renewed focus on smaller combos rather than the conventional big bands of the swing era. The smaller units allowed maximal flexibility in developing individual style and innovative musical language, in contrast to the restrictive and uniform Bebop scale (How to Play Bebop, vol. 2). Bebop pattern, a.k.a. “David Baker Bebop” (How to Play Bebop, vol. 3). 142 Monika Herzig and Brent Wallarab structure of the large ensembles. The name 21st Century Bebop Band for Baker’s small group is descriptive of his choice of musical language and forward-looking philosophy. Strongly rooted in the bebop tradition , the group featured mostly Baker’s innovative compositions and a unique blend of instruments: cello; often flute; trumpet or saxophone; frequently tuba; and a rhythm section including piano, bass, and drums. The first incarnation of the 21st Century Bebop Band as a combinationoffacultyandstudentsofIndianaUniversityfeaturedfellowfaculty member and tuba virtuoso Harvey Phillips; and students Hunt Butler on saxophone; Kurt Bahn on bass; Steve Ash on piano for one year, followedbyJimBeard ;andKeithCroninondrums.Fellowfacultymember Harvey Phillips and Baker met as members of the brass section during the 1959 recording sessions for pianist John Lewis’s recording of The Golden Striker. Their enduring friendship became the nucleus of the 21st Century Bebop Band. The group proved to be...


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Subject Headings

  • Baker, David, 1931-.
  • Composers -- United States -- Biography. -- Composers -- United States -- Biography.
  • Jazz musicians -- United States -- Biography. -- Jazz musicians -- United States -- Biography.
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