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.

bop top albums

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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 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.87 | 7 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.81 | 8 ratings
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CHARLIE PARKER Bird And Diz (aka Une Rencontre Historique) Album Cover Bird And Diz (aka Une Rencontre Historique)
CHARLIE PARKER
4.98 | 3 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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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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THELONIOUS MONK Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington Album Cover Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington
THELONIOUS MONK
4.75 | 2 ratings
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BUD POWELL The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4 : Time Waits Album Cover The Amazing Bud Powell, Vol. 4 : Time Waits
BUD POWELL
4.75 | 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 | 1 ratings
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But Beautiful
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Mark Elf Returns
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Birdland 1953
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bop Music Reviews

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.

BUD POWELL Blues for Bouffemont (aka The Invisible Cage)

Album · 1964 · Bop
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“Blues for Bouffemont” (also known as “The Invisable Cage”) was one of Bud Powell’s last recordings, and many consider it his last worthwhile recording. There is no doubt that Powell was one of the most influential jazz pianists ever, but due to mental health issues, his recordings can be inconsistent. Considering that this record came late in his career, it is surprisingly good, although not exactly a representation of Powell at his very best. On the plus side, Powell sounds very relaxed on here and his playing shows little traces of that bizarre stiffness that I’ve heard on other recordings that can make his playing unbearably loud and forceful. The relaxed feel in his playing is a welcome relief compared to some past recordings, but at the same time, I’ve heard Powell recordings that better show his abilities with ultra-fast tempos and complicated phrasing at high speed altitudes. Some have also complained of sloppiness in Powell’s playing on some cuts, but it only gets bad on “Relaxin at Camarillo”, which does sound a bit tipsy. So possibly “Bouffemont” falls on the plus side of the middle range when it comes to the up and down world of Bud Powell recordings.

Stylistically speaking you get a lot of variety on here ranging from up-tempo bop to ballads, swing, blues and even calypso jazz. Powell shows his dark humor on the sentimental ballad, “Like Someone in Love”, hamming it up like a Liberace. His crazy chord sequence that follows the bass solo packs in a lot in a few seconds. Much like Jimmy Smith and Keith Jarret, Bud Powell has been known to “sing” (sounds like an angry duck in the background) along with his playing. It doesn’t show up on some of his recordings, but it does on this album. It can be annoying at first, but not too hard to ignore after a while. Would you believe that in the late 70s, re-issues of this album on the Black Saint label could be found in the budget section at record stores for just a couple bucks., that’s how I got my copy.

BUD POWELL Jazz At Massey Hall Volume Two (aka The Bud Powell Trio )

Live album · 1953 · Bop
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“Jazz at Massey Hall Volume II” is the other half of one of the most notable jazz concerts in history. Volume I contains the one-time performance of the all-star quintet of Bird, Diz, Mingus, Max Roach and Bud Powell, while Volume II is just Powell on piano backed by Roach and Mingus. There have been countless re-issues of this album on both vinyl and CD, sometimes with different titles and song selections. Some will package the two volumes together as a two-fer, while other re-issues will include some studio sides that Powell cut around the same time with a rhythm section in Europe. I happen to have a vinyl re-issue called “Bud Powell Charlie Mingus Max Roach” credited to The Bud Powell Trio, confusingly enough, this group name happens to be the album title on earlier re-issues. I found my copy in a thrift store, and you pretty much never see Bud Powell records, even re-issues, in a thrift store.

This concert was recorded at a time when Powell’s playing was becoming increasingly erratic due to mental health issues, but he really pulls it together for this performance. All six of the tunes on the original album sound great, the re-issue I have, as well as many other re-issues, replaces “Basically Speaking” with “Jubilee”, which makes sense as its fast tempos provide a better showcase for Powell’s high speed dexterity than the more Mingus centered “Basically”. The four extra cuts recorded with Art Taylor and George Duvivier in Europe are good too, but some of Powell’s increasing oddness comes out more on these cuts. His ballad playing on the European dates is marred by his constant bizarre shifts in volume, and when he plays loudly, which is often, it sounds as if he wants to destroy the piano. A little “ugly beauty” is always a part of a good jazz ballad, but this sort of extremes is definitely an acquired taste.

The sometimes brutal ballads aside, this album is full of everything that is so great about Powell. The high speed tempos handled with ease, the tricky rhythmic phrases, the weird asides and instances of brilliance that are impossible for others to imitate. Some highlights on here include Powell’s two-handed interlocking solos on “Sure Thing” and Max Roach’s high speed bongo like drum solo answer to Powell’s flashy ride on “Cherokee”. Of course Charles Mingus is superb on bass, pushing the tempo like crazy on the fast numbers and providing melodic counterpoint to Bud Powell on "I got You Under My Skin".

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