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Night Lights Classic Jazz

Bop! Go the Big Bands

As the swing era gave way to new and challenging sounds, a generation of bandleaders was forced to take notice.

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Dizzy Gillespie big band

Photo: William Gottlieb/Library of Congress

Dizzy Gillespie leading his big band in New York City during the late 1940s.

In the mid-to-late 1940s, as the sound of swing gave way to the rise of bebop, popular bandleaders found themselves trying to incorporate the new music’s more complex rhythms and harmonies into their dance-orchestra styles. Bebop was just one of several challenges the big bands faced after the end of World War II, but it inspired a number of vital, modernistic, and exciting records. We’ll hear music from Claude Thornhill, Boyd Raeburn, Artie Shaw, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Eckstine, Woody Herman, and Benny Goodman.

Watch Dizzy Gillespie’s big band in 1946 performing “Things to Come”:

Music Heard On This Episode

Our Delight
Dizzy Gillespie — Odyssey: 1945-1952 (Savoy, 1946)
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Our Delight
Dizzy Gillespie — Odyssey: 1945-1952 (Savoy, 1946)

Notes: Tadd Dameron composition.

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Donna Lee
Claude Thornhill — Transcription Performances 1947 (Hep, 1947)

Notes: Charlie Parker composition, arranged by Gil Evans.

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The Moose
Charlie Barnet — Drop Me Off in Harlem (Decca, 1943)

Notes: Ralph Burns composition.

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I Stay in the Mood for You
Billy Eckstine — The Legendary Big Band (Savoy, 1944)
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Opus X
Billy Eckstine — The Legendary Big Band (Savoy, 1944)
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Things to Come
Dizzy Gillespie — Odyssey: 1945-1952 (Savoy, 1946)

Notes: Dizzy Gillespie-Gil Fuller composition.

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Night in Tunisia
Boyd Raeburn — Jubilee Performances--1946 (Hep, 1946)

Notes: Guest appearance by Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet.

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Groovin' High
Gerald Wilson — Central Avenue Sounds (Rhino, 1945)

Notes: Dizzy Gillespie composition.

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Overtime
Charlie Barnet — Capitol Big Band Sessions (Capitol, 1949)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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More Moon
Woody Herman — Keeper of the Flame (Capitol, 1949)

Notes: Also on the Mosaic box THE COMPLETE CAPITOL RECORDINGS OF WOODY HERMAN. Gene Ammons on tenor sax.

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Keen and Peachy
Woody Herman — Blowin' Up a Storm (Columbia/Legacy, 1947)

Notes: Ralph Burns-Shorty Rogers composition. Bop variant on "Fine and Dandy." Also available on the Mosaic Woody Herman set COMPLETE COLUMBIA RECORDINGS 1945-47.

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Yardbird Suite
Claude Thornhill — 1946-47 Performances V. 2 (Hep, 1947)

Notes: Charlie Parker composition.

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Something Cool
Les Brown — Uncollected Les Brown V. 2 (Hindsight, 1949)

Notes: Frank Comstock composition.

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Undercurrent Blues
Benny Goodman — Undercurrent Blues (Capitol, 1949)

Notes: Chico O'Farrill composition and arrangement.

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Aesop's Foibles
Artie Shaw — 1949 (Musicmasters, 1949)

Notes: Gene Roland arrangement.

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Four Brothers
Charlie Parker/Woody Herman — Bird With the Herd (Drive Archive, 1951)
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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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