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Risk (1945-1955)
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As rhythm and blues and rock 'n' roll erode jazz' audience still further, the music...
Jazz  ·  Episode 108

Risk (1945-1955)


Jazz becomes the official symbol of American democracy abroad. At home, the music splinters into different camps: white and black, cool and hot, East and West, traditional and modern. Television supplants radio, but offers fewer opportunities for jazz to be heard. Most big bands are forced to dismantle. The rhythm and blues phenomenon further erodes the audience for jazz. Charlie Parker dies of pneumonia and cirrhosis of the liver at age 34; Dizzy Gillespie carries on the innovations of bebop as a teacher and leader, forms a big band and blends modern jazz with Latin rhythms. Inspired by the emergent civil rights movement, promoter Norman Granz holds racially integrated jazz concerts; Louis Armstrong challenges the color barrier by touring in the South with an integrated band. Viewers meet Bud Powell, Erroll Garner and Thelonious Monk, who finally attains recognition for his unique approach and sound. Some California-based musicians create a quieter sound that comes to be known as "cool" jazz; these include baritone saxophonist Gerry Mulligan and piano player Dave Brubeck, whose quartet becomes the most popular jazz group in America. A young trumpeter from East St. Louis, Miles Davis, makes a set of recordings with innovative composer Gil Evans and becomes the most influential musician of his generation.

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