Cover image for Swing to bop : an oral history of the transition in jazz in the 1940s
Swing to bop : an oral history of the transition in jazz in the 1940s
Gitler, Ira.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1987.

Physical Description:
331 pages, 12 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 21 cm
General Note:
Includes index.
Reading Level:
930 Lexile.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML3508 .G57 1987 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This indispensable book brings us face to face with some of the most memorable figures in jazz history and charts the rise and development of bop in the late 1930s and '40s. Ira Gitler interviewed more than 50 leading jazz figures, over a 10-year period, to preserve for posterity theirrecollections of the transition in jazz from the big band era to the modern jazz period. The musicians interviewed, including both the acclaimed and the unrecorded, tell in their own words how this renegade music emerged, why it was a turning point in American jazz, and how it influenced their ownlives and work. Placing jazz in historical context, Gitler demonstrates how the mood of the nation in its post-Depression years, racial attitudes of the time, and World War II combined to shape the jazz of today.

Author Notes

Ira Gitler, writer, producer, and jazz radio host, is author of Jazz Masters of the '40s and co-author of The Encyclopedia of Jazz in the Seventies. A Guggenheim Fellow, he teaches at The New School's College of Jazz and Contemporary Music.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

The emergence of modern jazz, originally known as ``be-bop,'' is traced by Ira Gitler through a mosaic of interviews with 88 musicians and knowledgeable nonmusicians involved with or influenced by this important musical development. The lack of strong traditions of scholarship, critical analysis, and other types of documentation in jazz makes this collection of first-person commentaries very significant. The book belongs in any serious jazz collection. Gitler's arrangement of the material into eight chapters allows him to focus the speakers' attention on one topic at a time. Up to six people may be represented on a page with comments as short as two sentences or as long as three pages. The overall effect is of a fascinating conversation carefully guided by Gitler whose Jazz Masters of the Forties (CH, Jan '67) covered similar territory. It would be helpful to have more information on when and how the interviews were collected and whether all quotations were collected by the author, especially since space allocation is obviously not related to the artist's importance (Terry Gibbs appears 11 times, Dizzy Gillespie only twice). Gitler's own comments are minimal, focusing attention on the speakers themselves. The author's restraint is admirable, but it does mean that readers must be able to bring their own perspective on the value of each contributor's comments. The occasional footnotes used to amplify, correct, or explain could have been expanded without hindering the flow. There are a dozen pages of photographs and, most important, an index that is essential for any readers trying to find their way through this wonderful collection of insight, information, and recollection.-C.M. Weisenberg, University of California, Los Angeles

Table of Contents

Introductionp. 3
1. The Roadp. 9
2. Roots and Seedsp. 32
3. Minton's and Monroe'sp. 75
4. Fifty-Second Streetp. 118
5. Californiap. 160
6. Big-Band Bopp. 184
7. The Bop Erap. 219
8. End of Erap. 291
Epiloguep. 318
Indexp. 320