The quest for freedom with a small f appears at the very beginning of jazz and reappears at every growing point in the music's history. The earliest jazz musicians asserted their independence of melody, structure, rhythm, and expression from the turn-of-the-century musics that surrounded them; Louis Armstrong symbolized the liberation of the late twenties jazz soloist; the Count Basie band offered liberation of jazz rhythm; and Parker and Gillespie offered yet more new freedoms to jazz. Genuine freedom occurs when the artist can communicate most intimately with the materials, the language of his or her medium; each innovation in jazz, from the beginnings to the present, appears so that jazz artists can reveal what cannot be revealed in any other way. In today's jazz, if these innovations do not increase the artist's capacity for communication, then only Freedom, with a capital F, results. [14, p.14,]
John Litweiler wrote the above passage in the opening to his book The Freedom Principle, capturing the true essence of jazz - freedom. Jazz has come to be called the only true American art form; it was developed in this country and fostered by African-Americans as an expression of individualistic free will as embodied by the constitution of the United States. Jazz music in its purest sense is what it is to be an American.
Ironically, it is not always the free will of the artists that defines the state of jazz, but often the will of the recording industry corporations and media critics. Several times throughout the history of jazz music, labels have been forced upon the artists by these conglomerates, having a pigeonholing effect. Either the artist gets labelled in accordance with the music that he plays, or the artist is forced to play a particularly popular imposed style in order to survive. Free will was part of jazz, but its surface was marred by a heavy deterministic streak dictated by stylistic considerations.
Musicians living at the end of the 1950's had seen three of the aforementioned stylistic trends in jazz over the last decade and a half. Each of these trends came about as a series of reactions based both on what the musicians were doing and what the record companies thought the public wanted to hear. Out of the swing era came ``bebop'', out of bebop came ``cool jazz'' and from both emerged ``hard bop'' in the middle of the fifties. The three styles will be considered in efforts to set up the revolution that was to begin in 1959.