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History of Jazz Timeline: 1955

The Hard Bop style is emerging via people like drummer Art Blakey and piano player Horace Silver. Blue notes are disappearing from Jazz. They are being replaced by minor notes. For instance, the blue seventh becomes the minor seventh, etc.
Cool Jazz hits its last peak as saxman Jimmy Giuffre eliminates drums and strong bass altogether giving an implicit beat rather than an explicit beat.
Charlie Parker performs in public for the last time on March 4 at Birdland.
Charlie Parker dies of a heart seizure, hemorrhage and general pathetic health on March 12 in NYC in the home of Baroness Nica de Koenigswarter. Most of the major Bebop figures are dead or ineffective (mostly because of heroin).
Charlie Parker died in front of the TV. He was watching Tommy Dorsey and his band. Charlie's last words are a comment that Dorsey sounded great.
During the finale of the Charlie Parker Memorial Concert, Monk selects a tune that only he and Dizzy Gillespie are familiar with and Gillespie can't remember it. In the confusion, quick thinking Red Allen does a fast switch to the Blues and saves the moment.
Monk's Prestige contract is taken over by Riverside. Monk records some Ellington tunes and standards to stop the talk that he can only play his own compositions well.
Monk's music is starting to be referred to as "zombie music". Even this late, Monk's playing is still often ridiculed.
Miles Davis hires Coltrane to play tenor sax in his new Hard Bop quintet. Davis actually wants Sonny Rollins, but Rollins is busy kicking his drug habit and doesn't feel ready. The quintet also includes Paul Chambers (bass), Red Garland (piano) and Philly Jo Jones (drums).
Art Blakey puts together the first of his Jazz Messenger groups featuring Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor sax, Doug Watkins on bass, Horace Silver on piano and Blakey on drums. The sound will continue to define Hard Bop.
Bassist, composer and leader Charlie Mingus begins his period of greatest influence.
Drummer Kenny Clarke quits the MJQ and moves to Paris.
Connie Kay replaces Kenny Clarke as drummer for the MJQ. Connie will stay with this extraordinary band until his death.
Jimmy Smith debuts the Hammond B-3 organ as a Jazz instrument in an organ-guitar-drum trio in Atlantic City. Smith's Hammond will become a Jazz force.
Pianist Cecil Taylor becomes a major Free Jazz figure way before the time of Free Jazz.
Gigi Gryce and Art Farmer's quintet becomes a permanent unit now.
Saxophonist Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis forms a trio which includes Shirley Scott.
Tenor sax player Tina Brooks tours with Lionel Hampton.
Piano player Bud Powell can play well only sporadically now.
Sonny Rollins joins the Max Roach-Clifford Brown Quintet. Rollins says that Clifford showed him that it is possible to lead a good clean life and still be a good Jazz musician.
Piano player Herbie Nichols records the first of four sessions for Blue Note. Free Jazz is not far off.
Archie Shepp begins college.
Art Tatum gives his last solo performance.
Artie Shaw gives up music as his career. Artie never played a clarinet in public again.
Johnny Hodges rejoins the Duke Ellington orchestra. Drummer Sam Woodyard joins the Ellington band.
Leonard Feather finishes his first Encyclopedia of Jazz.
Downbeat becomes the most widely read jazz periodical in the U.S. (until 1965).
James P. Johnson dies.
Ray Charles does Hallelujah I Love Her So.
Former Blues guitarist Chuck Berry is playing a new style of guitar which is essentially Blues guitar fused with Country guitar. This is a major innovation and the result is the classic Rock guitar style of such songs as Sweet Little Sixteen which was later borrowed by the Beach Boys for their song Surfin' USA.
Cecil Taylor makes his recording debut.
Sun Ra makes his first recordings as a bandleader.

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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.