History of Jazz Timeline: 1939
War breaks out in Europe.
At this point in time, we have the Swing players who are king and the Dixieland players who are trying to revive what they think of as "real" Jazz but ... what's this up on the horizon? It's Charlie Christian, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie who are sowing the seeds of what will take Jazz over in the next few years!
By now, there are hundreds of Swing bands, but the Bop rebellion is beginning because many excellent young black players are getting irritated that the whites are making most of the money in Jazz.
52nd Street is by now called "Swing Street". It all started with The Onyx. Now, in the block between 5th and 6th Avenues, six Jazz clubs offer a high level of Jazz. Four of these are The Famous Door, Jimmy Ryan's, The Onyx and The Three Dueces. Because of space limitations, the small house band with one major soloist like Coleman Hawkins is the thing at these clubs.
Clubs also flourish in Greenwich Village, Harlem and in Chicago's south side, but 52nd Street is the symbolic headquarters of Jazz.
The first formal books on Jazz appear. They are Wilder Hobson's American Jazz Music and Frederick Ramsey and Charles Edward Smith's Jazzmen. These books tend to paint a storybook picture of New Orleans Jazz and help to promote the Dixieland Revival. It must be remembered that New Orleans Jazz and Dixieland Jazz have some fundamental differences.
Frederick Ramsey and William Russell locate and revive interest in the sixty year old New Orleans trumpeter Bunk Johnson. Bunk is as close as you could come to getting the legendary Buddy Bolden.
Alan Lomax does the famous Jelly Roll Morton recordings for the Library of Congress. This presents as close as we can get to a realistic view of the early days of Jazz.
Fletcher "Smack" Henderson becomes the first black musician who is a regular member of a white big band when he becomes Goodman's pianist. Fletcher is not, however, a featured artist in the band.
The Dixieland revival has two schools 1) Those committed to Armstrong, Oliver and Morton and 2) Those committed to Bix and the midwesterners. Dixieland is not really New Orleans music. It has a 4 beat ground beat instead of a 2 beat ground beat to give it a speedier feel. There are other differences. Dixieland is primarily a white movement.
Armstrong is going ever more commercial. Louie plays Bottom in a parody of William Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream called Swingin' the Dream.
Charlie Parker is in New York City working at Clarke Monroe's Uptown. He'll be at Monroe's for about a year. One night during this year, Charlie realizes that by using the high notes of the chords of a song, he can "play what's inside of him". The rest is the history of Bop. Charlie returns to Kansas City to play in Jay McShann's band. It will be awhile before everyone realizes that he is a genius.
Trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie is currently with Cab Calloway's band which also included Coleman Hawkins style tenor sax man Chu Berry. Dizzy was occasionally doing some things musically which others found strange. He would slip briefly into a chord containing notes 1/2 step away from normal. This practice will become standard Bop.
The Ellington band begins a four year period of very high attainment. Many consider this period the best of Ellington. The Duke severs ties with Irving Mills and he leaves the Columbia label to record for RCA-Victor.
Pittsburgh pianist and composer Billy Strayhorn joins the Duke Ellington Orchestra.
Teddy Wilson leaves the Benny Goodman small groups and Jess Stacy leaves the Benny Goodman big band. At this point the Earl Hines influenced Wilson is the most influential pianist in Jazz. Jess Stacy is also of the Hines school.
Ben Webster joins Duke on tenor sax after a short stint as a charter member of the short lived Teddy Wilson band.
Jimmy Blanton joins Duke on bass.
Coleman Hawkins returns to the U.S. to reclaim his title. The story goes that at three o'clock one morning, Coleman enters a club where Lester Young is playing behind Billie Holiday and a battle for tenor sax supremacy ensues. Holiday says that Lester is the clear winner, but Ellington trumpeter Rex Stewart says that Hawkins blew Young away. At any rate, Hawkins remains more popular in the short run, although Lester becomes a major force as an influence on the fledgling Bop movement.
Coleman Hawkins does a version of Body and Soul which many feel is among the finest masterpieces of Jazz. It is virtually an exercise in chromatic chord movement. This is a precursor to Bop harmonics. Coleman understands harmonics very well and he will have no problem with Bop harmonics. The Bop rhythm will however elude him.
Earl "Bud" Powell quits high school at age fifteen and begins gigging around New York City as a professional pianist. Bud was influenced early by Hines, Teddy Wilson and Billy Kyle. He will later be influenced by Art Tatum.
Mary Lou Williams tells John Hammond of a bright young guitarist from Texas named Charlie Christian. Hammond tells Goodman. Goodman is not at first impressed, but some of the band members are. They arrange for Charlie to play while Benny is off on break. Benny comes back and this time likes what he hears so much that he lets Charlie play a version of Rose Room that lasts close to an hour.
Charlie Christian's unique electric guitar phrasings allow the guitar to compete as a lead instrument head to head with the trumpet and the sax for the first time. Charlie probably learned of the electric from Floyd Smith whose Floyd's Guitar Blues made with Andy Kirk's Clouds of Joy is the first important use of the electric guitar. The electric guitar was almost unknown before this.
Woody Herman is leading a conventional swing orchestra and hits big with "Woodchopper's Ball." He is known by band members as a great organizer, musical coach and spirited performer.
Django records Montemarte, Solid Old Man, Low Cotton and Finesse with the Duke Ellington band.
Young drummer Art Blakey is playing in a band of Pittsburghers which is formed by Fletcher Henderson. Art will eventually become a first rate Hard Bop drummer and bandleader.
Nat "King" Cole arrives at the idea of a trio consisting of piano, guitar and bass in which all players share a prominent role. Believe it or not, this was a very important innovation of the time and it made Nat's early carreer. He'll soon give up the piano and become the popular singer who we all know.
Oscar Peterson is playing piano at a radio station in Canada at age fourteen.
Saxophonist Bud Freeman remakes a number of Bix Beiderbecke and the Wolverines tunes.
Mugsy Spanier, an Oliver style trumpeter, forms a Dixieland band called Spanier's Ragtimers. Ragtimer records appear in the U.S. and travel to Europe.
Record companies begin to reissue the old music.
Trumpeter Tommy Ladnier dies in New York at the young age of 39.
John Coltrane's father and grandfather die.
Pianist Albert Ammons records "Shout for Joy".
Founding of Broadcast Music, Inc. (BMI) helps the wider
exposure of independent labels and race and hillbilly music.
Disclaimer: Though we have checked our facts, this timeline may contain erroneous information. If you discover errors or omissions, please bring them to our attention.