development into the modern jazz movement cannot be described in a linear historical model with a series of clearly separate stages because, since its inception in the 1940s, it quickly fragmented into cool and hard bop in the 1950s to the 1960s. Bebop exhibits the dynamic organic nature of jazz as it changes across three decades. It evolves from early jazz and revolts against swing, as it continues the development of modern jazz into cool and hard bop, an evolution that manifests African American innovation that reacted to American society’s oppressive socioeconomic and cultural conditions.
Bebop rebels against big bands which are already declining during the 1940s as a form of struggle against racism. Several historians argue that bebop is a reaction to racism and swing’s populist ideals. Eric Porter asserts that Bebop musicians “refused” to become the entertainers of “Uncle Tom,” and wanted “to escape the stereotypes and audience expectations of the past,” while preserving an “aversion to musical boundaries.”3 Bebop is rooted in African American experiences that characterize it as an oppositional reaction against big bands, the large dance swing bands.4 Bebop music is about experimentation and technical expertise that resisted the controls of socioeconomic forces. In essence, bebop musicians did not play music primarily for making money, but for their autonomy.5 As a result, when it first came out, those who regarded themselves as “cultural gatekeepers” of white bourgeois cultural values and standards “descended” on bebop with “fanatical fury.”6 They did not like the originality and independence of bebop that reflected aggression and defiance of rigid social hierarchy through traditional musical norms. Scholars understand this negative perception of bebop from the threatened gatekeepers because changing music means changing culture and that these changes ultimately threaten the status quo of society.7