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The song Koko by Charlie Parker is an adaptation of the classic standard Cherokee. The original melody is dismissed entirely and in its place is a remarkable introduction that involves a unison line for eight bars followed by eight bars of improvisation by Dizzy Gillespie on trumpet then another eight bars by Parker on saxophone. The culmination of the intro is a return to a unison line which concludes with a crash from the drums. This crash is like a gunshot that starts the wild and highly innovative improvisation of Parker. The improvisation is at reckless speed and contains what are unpredictable yet well-calculated rests in between lightning lines.

Extract from Nabucco - Giuseppe Verdi

Summertime- Gershwin




This extract contains a similar mysterious tone that the introduction of Koko evokes. It is similar in its use of spacing. It first presents an musical idea or motif which ends in a ringing note and the singer leaping an interval much like a Bebop artist would. The idea is then presented in a minor key and finishes on that same ringing note. A third idea is presented that sets up a conclusive fourth statement. The strings leap and bound creating a very different feeling from the uncontrollable pace of Koko. Yet the piece seems to summon a similar kind of drama.




These two selections of Summertime are interesting because they are from completely different fields, one an opera, one a piece by a Bebop musician. Yet they both draw their influence from Jazz and are very similar. The Opera version is defined by the voice of the singer while Parker's is defined by its throbbing bluesy tone. This song is perhaps the closest link between Bebop and Opera.



Word Count: approx 1,432