Bebop! It's a rather silly word for a crucial chapter in jazz history. It didn't just come out of nowhere but evolved, fizzed and bubbled into existence in the USA in the early 1940s, as a result of a gloriously rich and complex musical chemistry involving different combinations of musicians, styles and places. All week, Donald Macleod and his special guest, the writer and broadcaster Geoffrey Smith, have some serious fun investigating this amazing musical phenomenon.
In Tuesday's programme, they focus on the 'yin and yang' of Bebop, Charlie Parker and the man he once referred to as 'the other half of my heartbeat', Dizzy Gillespie, starting with three studio recordings - 'Dizzy Atmosphere', 'Now's the Time' and 'Koko' - that galvanized the jazz world, both with the freshness and inventiveness of the musical language and the sheer virtuosity of the playing. Next we follow Parker and Gillespie on a trip to Los Angeles - an occasion notable both for the thrilling live concert they played there and for Parker's ensuing breakdown and stay in Camarillo State Hospital, where, after years of drug abuse, he underwent six months' psychiatric treatment; it would be several years before the two men collaborated again. In the meantime, Gillespie formed a big band and made a string of dazzlingly extrovert recordings; Parker's more reflective, introspective work from this time stands in stark contrast. Finally, we hear them together again in their last studio outing, from June 1950. Parker, always sailing close to the wind, would be dead within five years; Gillespie carried on playing Bebop for another 40, even becoming a cultural ambassador for the US State Department along the way.