June is African American Music Appreciation Month.
The social tensions underlying America’s postwar prosperity were reflected in the broken rhythms and dissonant melodies of bebop—and in the troubled life of Charlie Parker. Nicknamed “Bird,” Parker demonstrated ideas and techniques as overwhelming for musicians of his generation as Louis Armstrong’s had been a quarter-century before. But Parker wasn’t the only bebop innovator. Dizzy Gillespie tried to popularize the new sound by adding showmanship and Latin rhythms, while pianist Thelonius Monk infused it with his eccentric personality. Alas, pop singers were the rage. Searching for a new audience, California musicians opted for cool and mellow and Dave Brubeck stirred in classical influences. But one man remained determined to give jazz popular appeal on his own terms—the trumpet player and one-time Parker sideman Miles Davis. Distributed by PBS Distribution. Part of the series Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns. Distributed by PBS Distribution.