ART BLAKEY — Hard Bop (review)

ART BLAKEY — Hard Bop album cover Album · 1957 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
4.5/5 ·
Just a year after the original line up in The Jazz Messengers the entire band had changed excepting of course for Art Blakey on drums and since Horace Silver had left perhaps it was from default more than ambition that the name became Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers but all jokes aside the new line up for this release of “Hard Bop” being a Quintet did not last long either and never really attained the fame that the following line up to come would when Bobby Timmons, Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Johnny Griffin, and Jymie Merrit came through the band in the next two years with all of them knowing how to write superb compositions as it was Bobby Timmons who penned their most popular number not all that long after this album being “Moanin”. The folks at Mosaic have rectified this time omission all the same with this 2006 reissue of “Hard Bop” bringing to us this not all that well known or recognised period in the Jazz Messengers history and after hearing this you will realise what a wonderful line up the band contained during this period who recorded some great cracking Hard Bop back in late 1956 for what was originally a 10 inch release being the first five tracks with the following three issued on the album “Drum Suite” with all this combined material included in this cd release being recorded at the same sessions on December 12 and 13th in 1956 including some great compositions from trumpeter Bill Hardman and alto saxophonist Jackie McLean included who both are in this current line up with also Sam Dockery playing piano, Spanky De Brest on bass and of course Art Blakey is drumming.

The Bill Hardman composition “Cranky Spanky” gets things underway in a frantic manner with Jackie, Bill and Sam respectively playing their solos in this delightful high speed Bebop composition with one of the most covered Jazz Standards to follow “Stella by Starlight” and what is nice about this cover is the band comes in mid tempo motoring the track along having a lovely swing with a driving solo from Jackie McLean followed by Bill Hardman on trumpet and Sam again on piano just keeping the Bop coming right throughout it. You may think it is Ballad time for the next being the Rodgers and Hart song my “Heart Stood Still” but one thing for sure with Jackie McLean’s opening solo it is anything but which brings us to the next being the penned composition from Jackie McLean who had already released it earlier on his album “Presenting Jackie McLean” being the Bluesy “Little Melonae” which would become well known in future years which already at this time Miles Davis had recorded but not released with later versions from Kenny Burrell and John Coltrane to come. “Stanley’s Stiff Chickens” is co written by Bill and Jackie to finish this 10 inch album off with once again great superb Hard Boppin’ solos throughout this mid tempo number and the inimitable drum rolls from Art Blakey included. The three remaining bonus tracks included keep up the high standard and a brief drum solo from Art opens “Nica’s Tempo” if that is what you are looking for but as the cd booklet notes suggests for the last track was Art Blakey serious for his “Gershwin Medley” or was it more tongue in cheek, the booklet leans towards the later but still I find, it ain’t bad.

There is no Swing shortage or Boppin’ for that matter, foot will be tapping, fingers clicking on this wonderful early driving release from Art Blakey and one of the album highlights for me is how Jackie McLean’s solo just rips through that ballad “My Heart Stood Still”. Unfortunately all those Blue Note albums seem to have over shadowed this one that was released on Columbia but hopefully people will come to see after a listen what wonderful high speed driving Bop has been recorded here in these two sessions just before Christmas in 1956
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