Bop

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Bop, or be-bop in its full name, was a young jazz man's answer to the more conservative prevailingly swing music of the time. Developed in New York City during the early 40s, bop hit the international scene in 1945 and took everyone by surprise with its energetic and radical approach to swing jazz music. In the hands of innovators such as Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, the old swing music was given much faster tempos and more spare accompaniments from the rhythm section which opened up space for rapid fire pyrotechnical solos. Still a favorite genre in jazz music schools around the world, many clubs still feature be-bop to this day, but today's bop sounds tamer and calmer than the original item.

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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.90 | 10 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall Album Cover With John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall
THELONIOUS MONK
4.98 | 5 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.80 | 9 ratings
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CHARLIE PARKER Bird And Diz (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #4 aka Une Rencontre Historique) Album Cover Bird And Diz (aka The Genius Of Charlie Parker #4 aka Une Rencontre Historique)
CHARLIE PARKER
4.98 | 3 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.79 | 9 ratings
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JOE PASS Virtuoso Album Cover Virtuoso
JOE PASS
4.93 | 3 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Miles Davis All Star Sextet (aka Walkin') Album Cover Miles Davis All Star Sextet (aka Walkin')
MILES DAVIS
4.77 | 7 ratings
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SONNY STITT Constellation Album Cover Constellation
SONNY STITT
5.00 | 2 ratings
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SONNY STITT Tune-Up! Album Cover Tune-Up!
SONNY STITT
5.00 | 2 ratings
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BEN WEBSTER The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors) Album Cover The Consummate Artistry of Ben Webster (aka King Of The Tenors)
BEN WEBSTER
5.00 | 2 ratings
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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
5.00 | 2 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Bags' Groove Album Cover Bags' Groove
MILES DAVIS
4.59 | 7 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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All Right With Me
Boxset / Compilation
HERB GELLER
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An Evening with Joe Albany
Live album
JOE ALBANY
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bop Music Reviews

THELONIOUS MONK Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

Album · 1956 · Bop
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js
“Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington” is an album that comes early in Monk’s career. He had started out at the Prestige label, where he recorded a handful of albums that featured his original compositions that were on the cutting edge of modern be-bop. These albums did not sell well as many jazz fans felt Monk’s music was too ‘difficult’, and sometimes downright foreboding. Frustrations with Prestige finally reached a head and Monk was let go, which is when upstart label Riverside entered the picture. Eager to have a known artist on their roster, Riverside gladly took on Monk and began advising him on how to expand his audience. The whole idea behind ‘Monk Plays Ellington’ was to have Monk record some familiar tunes by a well known master, and then possibly a wider audience may come to appreciate him.

Many hardcore Monk fans are dismissive of ‘Plays Ellington’, and consider it somewhat of a commercial sellout with less than top notch playing. This harsh evaluation is hardly true, although this is not one of Monk’s more outside albums, he hardly plays it safe or checks his creativity at the door. Instead these tunes carry all the trademarks of Monk’s playing; the weird rhythmic juxtapositions, the jagged phrasing and the surprise note choices, its all here, plus Ellington too. Choosing Oscar Pettiford and Kenny Clark as his backup also shows that Monk was striving for more credibility and acceptance by picking two of the top and best known performers of that time. Pettiford gets a couple short solos, and also engages in some interesting interplay with Thelonious.

Monk’s playing easily fits with Ellington’s music, as they both come from this sophisticated and abstract blues perspective. Monk’s playing on here may seem somewhat restrained compared to some of his other albums, but I doubt that was due to a lack of creativity or commercial concerns, instead it seems that Monk doesn’t want to take all the ‘Ellington’ out of the music and make it too much of a Monk joint. His perceived restraint probably has more to do with Monk’s integrity and artistic respect than anything else.

Monk does not perform any major transformations on any of these tunes, probably the only noticeable change comes when “Mood Indigo” is played like a blues, instead of the languid lounge number it usually is. Possibly top tune honors could go to “I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart’ , which is given a joyous romp with a dissonant solo, and ends up sounding a bit like Monk’s “Let’s Cool One”. Also memorable are “Black and Tan Fantasy” and Monk’s moving solo work on “Solitude”. Overall this is a good album, but possibly more interesting to Ellington fans than Monk fans.

THELONIOUS MONK Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2

Boxset / Compilation · 1956 · Bop
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Matt
These were the last sessions that Thelonious Monk recorded during his tenure at Blue Note Records which lasted from 1947 to 1952 and they comprise as the previous Volume 1 edition the first incantations of so many of his classic compositions that he would record again throughout the later 1950’s and 60”s. If one looks at his recording dates whilst at Blue Note there is a four year gap and although he had lost his Cabaret License and was no longer able to play licensed venues and clubs, it was that his records did not sell being more the reason for his absents. Monk’s music was not the usual BeBop with its fast tempos and starring solos but more a collective with each musician required to interlink with each other to maintain those looping, jaunting, up and down notes that the majority of Thelonious Monk compositions contain. Nobody back then really got it apart from his fellow Jazz musicians and what other people termed as music odd balls. It was different music for that period in the History of Jazz and the other issue was getting fellow musicians who could grasp the times and structure that Monk used within his compositions which although the prior Volume 1 has so many of his original classic compositions contained and is a Jazz Classic in its own right due to this fact, it is just some of the musicians used in those first three sessions back in 1947, at times seemed to be out of sync with Monk. “Genius Of Modern Music Volume 2” seems to have remedied this problem with the only two musicians still included from those early sessions being Art Blakey drumming and Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone.

The album is divided into two sessions with alternate takes included with the first being a Quintet comprising Monk, piano, Sahib Shihab on alto saxophone, Milt Jackson on vibes, Al McKinnon, bass and Art Blakey is drumming. The first composition is “Four In One” with Monk opening and quickly inserting the compositions theme with Sahib on alto providing quite a distinct sound to accompany Monk’s piano, with a solo to follow each with Milt Jackson’s vibes included last. The alternate take which follows is the same for quality, as like true Jazz musicians the solos are not the same with Monks being a little longer and Sahib’s shorter. “Criss Cross” another Monk classic follows and Milt Jackson solos first on vibes in quite an up tempo composition with Sahib and Monk following. The alternate is again slightly different to the first. “Eronel” which follows has Sahib’s opening alto and the band interlinking for more wonderful original music. “Straight No Chaser” comes next, being superb in its original format and one can hear Monk playing a heavily influenced Stride piano during his solo. “Ask Me Now” has two takes included with the alternate running to 4 and a half minutes with a slightly slower tempo than the master which only ran to 3. This composition is only performed in a Trio setting with the rhythm section. I find the alternate more appealing as one can hear a 1920’s distinct touch of Stride and Dance Hall within Monk’s piano technique. “Willow Weep For Me” is the last for the session and the only Standard and is played superbly of course with Monk’s technique which brings this first session to an end.

The 2nd session contains a completely different line up and is a Sextet comprising Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Lou Donaldson, alto saxophone, Lucky Thompson, tenor saxophone, Nelson Boyd, bass and Max Roach on drums. The first three Monk compositions all have alternate or a 2nd take included and it is “Skippy” which comes first with a marvellous fast tempo including wonderful solos by the musicians on both takes. “Hornin’ In” which follows is pure Monk and why he never used this composition more is a mystery as it has the required kook inserted by the tunes theme. “Sixteen” another composition which he seemed to have left behind, as with the previous two compositions is pure Monk again with the structure and timing. A cover of “Carolina Moon” was also superbly done at this last session with the last Monk composition being his classic “Let’s Cool One”. The session finished recording that day playing the Standard “I’ll Follow You” in a Trio setting. A lot of the credit should go to a young Max Roach throughout the session for his superb take on the music with his drumming.

These first two Blue Note volumes contain the Exodus section from the Bible for Jazz as this where Thelonious Monk first presented his original Bop compositions which became the foundation for so many influences that permeate the music genre. Sure there has been better recordings of some of these numbers since but this is the original presentation. The inclusion of Milt Jackson on vibes laid a template for so many Avante Garde recordings which would follow in the future. The horn arrangements used more often than not as counters within his compositions themes are another influence that has forever left its mark on Jazz.

Twenty one days prior to recording the first session of “Volume 2” Monk recorded with Milt Jackson at Blue note with the material from that session appearing under Milt Jackson’s name as part of his release “Wizard Of The Vibes” with some of the material from this session recorded on July 23 1951 being also included. There also was a 10 inch (1952) and a 12 inch ( 1956) record issued under “Genius Of Modern Music Vol 2” with some of the material crossing over. Lucky for us the first cd issued in 1989 puts all of Monk’s music with his last session recorded approximately 10 months later in actual recording order. There are so many editions released since with an RVG (Rudy Van Gelder) remaster following this original cd release which I would also recommend or get the record as that is available as well these days.

MILES DAVIS The Musings of Miles (aka The Beginning)

Album · 1955 · Bop
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siLLy puPPy
Although I wouldn't call THE MUSINGS OF MILES the most essential of releases by one of the greatest musical entities of the jazz world, namely MILES DAVIS, I really love to dig deep into the vaults to hear the evolution of his music since he was one of the greatest innovators of constantly changing it up from one album to the next. At this point in his career he was not quite as eclectic as he would become a few short years down the road but at this juncture in his still fairly nascent career he still offers some well played bop of the mid-50s which finds him developing his own techniques as well as worshiping his own heroes in the form of Dizzy Gillespie on his version of “A Night In Tunisia” as well as “I See Your Face Before Me” and “A Gal In Calico” by Arthur Schwartz. In fact only the two tracks “I Didn't” and “Green Haze” were written by DAVIS.

This album finds him at the point before he would form his first classic quintet which would be created shortly after the recording of this album and this is one of the few albums where MILES is the only horn player. It is he alone on trumpet delivering the one and only horn section accompanied by Oscar Pettiford on bass, Red Garland on piano and Philly Joe Jones on drums. For this reason MILES stands out more than on his other albums where he usually trades off and weaves the brass sections together. The music here is a mix of mid-tempo bop jazz alternating with slower numbers taking you on a fairly standard jazz ride of the era but with MILES DAVIS even a standard ride has a slight edge to it that keeps my attention. Also this is one of the earliest of recordings that has found a home on a the somewhat recent Rudy Van Gelder Remasters. Although this is hardly the peak of his lengthy and diverse output I still find this a wonderful listen for its stripped down quartet sound that allows MILES to steal the limelight as sole horn master.

MILES DAVIS Bags' Groove

Album · 1957 · Bop
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siLLy puPPy
BAGS GROOVE was recorded way back in 1954 but wasn't released until 1957. This is considered his “Birth Of The Cool” phase in his career. As with many releases this one is a handful of selections that were strewn together after being recorded from various sessions. 54' was a fruitful year of session recordings since other tracks from the same period led to the album “Miles Davis And The Modern Jazz Giants” as well as there being enough material to throw on Thelonious Monk albums. BAGS was the nickname of vibraphonist Milt Jackson who, despite having the album named after him, only plays on the first two tracks which are different versions of the title track.

Thelonious Monk and Horace Silver on piano, Sonny Rollins on tenor sax, Percy Heath on bass, Kenny Clarke on drums and of course Miles himself on trumpet all conspire to make an outstanding album of classic jazz that is satisfying from beginning to end. The music is good enough to merit a much higher rating but there is one thing keeping this album from being a huge classic and that is the fact that two tracks here, namely the title track “Bags Groove” and “But Not For Me” appear here twice each showcasing two different takes of each piece.

Although I have no preference of one take over another, the fact is that this makes listening to this as an album from beginning to end a bit of chore especially when the title track takes are over 11 and 9 minutes and also that the takes don't differ significantly from each other. So this basically makes it feel like a leftovers package and since the album came out three years after it was recorded that very well may be exactly what this is. Recently this has in fact been considered by some to be a compilation album.

CHARLIE PARKER Ken Burns Jazz: Definitive Charlie Parker

Boxset / Compilation · 2000 · Bop
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js
If you tend to buy your CDs at the used shops and thrift stores, then you will already know that these Ken Burns collections tend to show up a lot, and usually at a very reasonable price. I’m going to guess that a lot of these Ken Burns collections were bought as gifts during the height of his TV series, and then after a few listens, the hype wears off and the CD owner realizes he didn’t really like jazz all that much anyway, ha. This Parker CD tends to get a similar evaluation as many of Burn’s other compilations, a nice collection of tunes marred by hit and miss sound quality. How big this sound quality issue is to you will probably determine if this is a CD you would like to have.

To my ears, the sound on here is not that bad, about 20 to 25 percent of the tunes have a pronounced high end hiss and surface noise, but most of the rest are fine. Which brings us to the next issue, how good do you expect older recordings to sound? Technology does exist today to clean up old recordings, but when you remove the high end, you stand a chance of losing some cymbals, or even slightly altering what a horn sounds like. It’s a tough choice sometimes. Me personally, I don’t expect old jazz recordings to sound perfect, and over time, I barely notice things like hiss, especially if there is plenty of ambient noise going on (traffic, people talking etc). I read one complaint about this CD in which a consumer claimed that this CD sounded bad on headphones. Yes, high end hiss will be very pronounced on headphones, but why listen to older recordings on headphones, it’s a bad combination to begin with. A lot of this music was mixed to sound good coming out of small radio speakers, and smaller speakers, or just an average home stereo, is still what this music sounds best on. If you are looking for deep bass ala your latest dub-step club mix or Pink Floyd surround-sound, then its time to drop this CD off at the thrift store for someone who will provide a proper home for it.

As far as the music on here goes, you get a nice overview of Parker’s career spanning from his early days as a radical innovator and on up to his last years where he slowed his pace, but developed an extra sweet and supple tone. If you like the crazy early be-bop, that’s well represented here with “Salt Peanuts”, “Ornithology” and the ultimate Parker rush; “Ko-Ko”. Elsewhere on here you get one early cut when Parker was a sideman with Jay McShann’s big band and at least one of those ‘Parker with strings’ tracks. Bird’s recordings with strings were much maligned when they were released , but over time they have been accepted, and for good reason, those recordings with strings contain some of Parker’s very sweetest playing. The rest of this CD consists of favorites any fan will know, and any novice will want to hear.

Once again, the sound quality of several cuts is going to be the make or break on this one. Personally I think it sounds ok, but it may not sound so good to folks raised on perfect digital sound and modern compression. For those who want to sample the worst, probably the highest amount of noise occurs on “Yardbird Suite” and “Relaxin at Camarillo”, although there are a couple more that are not much better. The other thing to consider is the scope of this collection, I would imagine some would prefer a collection that only features Parker’s earlier work and not his later efforts. The overall evaluation for this CD; this may not be the best Parker collection, but I’ve heard worse, at least Ken Burns and his crew did a good job of matching the volumes on the different tracks.

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