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

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Music Album Cover Monk's Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.84 | 13 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Misterioso Album Cover Misterioso
THELONIOUS MONK
4.95 | 4 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
4.89 | 4 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners Album Cover Brilliant Corners
THELONIOUS MONK
4.70 | 12 ratings
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THELONIOUS MONK Monk's Dream Album Cover Monk's Dream
THELONIOUS MONK
4.69 | 12 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
4.69 | 8 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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ARTURO SANDOVAL Swingin' Album Cover Swingin'
ARTURO SANDOVAL
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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THELONIOUS MONK Genius of Modern Music Album Cover Genius of Modern Music
THELONIOUS MONK
4.84 | 3 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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Pittsburgh
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bop Music Reviews

ADAM MAKOWICZ Adam Makowicz & George Mraz ‎: Classic Jazz Duets

Live album · 1982 · Bop
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Adam Makowicz started out his musical career as a classical piano student at the Chopin Conservatory in Krakow Poland. Sometime in the mid-50s, Adam became interested in the jazz music that he heard on underground radio broadcasts. Poland was under USSR domination at this time and jazz was mostly forbidden. Once it was learned that Adam was playing jazz, he was kicked out of the university and spent many years as a mostly homeless person. Despite the hardships, Makowicz continued to develop an outstanding technique as a jazz pianist. Interestingly enough, the style that Makowicz developed was an older style, one rooted in the physical demands of stride piano and artists such as Art Tatum and Earl Hines. Early jazz piano required that the pianist be like an orchestra by themselves, with both hands pounding out fistfuls of notes. This was quite different from the more minimalist style pioneered by Monk and Bud Powell that had become the popular style with most modern pianists. This older style that Adam leaned towards could have been caused by his cultural isolation, or it could have been the style he preferred, or maybe a bit of both of those causes. Still, it is also interesting to note that those early jazz pianists who developed the big two-handed stride style were also very influenced by the Chopin pieces they learned in their youthful piano lessons. It would not be too far off to say that Chopin may be the connecting factor between Makowicz and the jazz pianists he admired.

In 1977, famed producer John Hammond brought Makowicz to the US where Adam began to record many albums. Cut forward to 1982 and Adam enters a jazz club called Bechts with fellow European bassist, George Mraz, to record “Classic Jazz Duets”. Side one of the album contains four bebop standards played brilliantly by the two artists. There is a lot of creative interplay as the two effortlessly slip in and out of double time, or reel off precise unison passages at blinding fast tempos. This could have been an outstanding neo-bop album, but problems emerge on side two. This side opens with a blazing version of “Cherokee” which keeps the good vibes flowing, but then the duo decides to cover the cheezy 70s pop song, “If”, yes the song by ultra-cheezy soft rock group Bread. Unfortunately, Adam’s very busy technique becomes quite tacky in the hands of this very trite pop dead end. After this, the album closes with yet one more tune more associated with lounge music than bebop. Its unfortunate these two clunkers undermine what could have been a much better album.

Despite the two questionable tunes, this album is still worth picking up for fans of that sort of heavily technical playing featured by artists like Oscar Peterson, or the aforementioned Art Tatum and Earl Hines. Adam’s playing, and his interactions with Mraz are at times mind-boggling.

THELONIOUS MONK Paris 1969

Live album · 2013 · Bop
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This review is written using the double LP version of this recording. I would imagine when most Monk fans see the 1969 recording date on this album, they not only approach with caution, but probably assume this is one to avoid entirely. The previous year of 1968 had been one of Monk’s roughest, with more time spent in hospitals, rather than clubs. His long time rhythm section finally had to leave him for more work, and only saxophonist Charlie Rouse remained, who was also having problems of his own. Monk’s performances during this time had become spotty and many assumed his career was about over. So it was, in late 1969, Monk and Rouse set out for Europe with a young inexperienced rhythm section in an attempt to prove they still had something to say. “Paris 1969” was recorded on the last day of that tour, and the big surprise is that Monk and his young band sound great.

There are no big surprises on the first two sides of this four sided collection, on which Monk and his band play spirited renditions of well known Monk favorites. This is probably not the most exploratory playing from Monk and Rouse, but they aren’t exactly loafing either. The rhythm section is made up of two young unknowns, (Nate Hygellund on bass and Paris Wright on drums), who were never heard of much again outside of this recording, but they both turn in very strong performances. On side three things change up a bit when Monk plays a few numbers solo. The old school stride version of “I Love You Sweetheart of all my Dreams” is a real treat and must of sounded like a rare jewel during the heavy-handed musical environment of 1969. Also nice is Monk’s solo version of “Crespuscule with Nellie”, a tune that makes a lot more sense the way Monk plays it solo, as opposed to band versions which seem clumsy in comparison.

On side four things change again when Philly Jo Jones takes the drum chair for the last couple numbers. As mentioned earlier, Paris Wright is a solid and even inspired drummer, but Philly Jo is an absolute master of rhythm. Philly Jo’s drum solo on “Nutty” is a textbook example on how a good drummer can expand on the rhythms of the melody through increasingly imaginative variations. The concert closes with Monk and Philly Jo playing short versions of “Blue Monk” and “Epistrophy” that reveal what Monk’s music can really sound like. It’s a bit of a tease coming at the end of the album like it does.

Probably the biggest negative issue with this album is the sound quality. This concert was recorded for TV, and it sounds like a TV broadcast, which means it sounds much better than a bootleg, but not as good as a studio recording. Monk’s music is purposefully coarse and dissonant in the first place, so possibly a rough recording shouldn’t be a big issue.

THELONIOUS MONK Misterioso

Live album · 1958 · Bop
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Although Thelonious Monk’s contributions to jazz are highly regarded, it doesn’t mean that everything he recorded was gold. Especially towards the end of his career, Monk’s performances could be inconsistent or uninspired. Also, with shifting band personal, Monk sometimes had to work with musicians who did not exactly click with his difficult music. This leads to the question, which of his albums show Monk and his band at their best? Amongst possible candidates for this honor, the live set “Misterioso” rates very high. Not only is Monk on fire here, but he has an excellent band too, with the always imaginative Roy Haynes on drums, rock solid Ahmed Abdul Malik on bass and the high flying Johnny Griffin on tenor sax. In fact, Griffin’s soaring performance almost steals the show. There are only two Monk albums that feature Griffin, the other one is “Monk in Action”, which is the other half of the live set that makes up this disc.

“Misterioso” was recorded in Augaust 1958 at NYC’s Five Spot at a time when Monk’s career had just peaked, and the new avant-garde, which would make Monk no longer appear to be such an iconoclast, was just starting to appear. Surely Johnny Griffith’s astonishing rapid flow of notes is an under-rated predecessor to the new free jazz stylists. Griffith’s ‘sheets of sound’ tend to stay tonal, but the sheer intensity of his playing was a ‘new thing’. Some early critics felt Griffith’s excessive approach was at odds with Monk’s well-timed minimalist approach, but the two musicians actually compliment each other well, and both sound very happy to interact with each other’s direction and vision. Roy Haynes also contributes to the rhythmic interplay, and adds some excellent drum solos that demonstrate how a creative drummer can convey, and re-construct, the melody of a tune.

For Monk collectors, “Misterioso” is a must have, and for those wishing to check out his music, this is a great place to start. The almost kitsch beat-era album cover is a plus too.

THELONIOUS MONK Genius of Modern Music

Album · 1952 · Bop
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Its not good for reviewers to engage in excessive hyperbole, but when it comes to Thelonious Monk’s “Genius of Modern Music”, we’re going to throw all restraint out the window and just come out and say that this is quite possibly the most important LP in jazz history. Keep in mind that the salient works by Armstrong, Ellington and Parker went down before the arrival of the LP, so that takes them out of the competition, but Monk’s first shot at a major label release came along just as the LP format was finally being given to jazz artists. “Genius of Modern Music” did not make a strong impact at first, many critics and jazz fans were dismissive of Monk’s odd approach, while many others didn’t even notice this album came out at all. But, it was different with many of the musicians, they heard what Monk was doing and they were interested, and over the decades, many more musicians would turn to his very personal take on what jazz could be to find their own inspiration. To this day, from Matthew Shipp to Vijay Iyer and everyone else as well, Monk remains one of the strongest influences on modern jazz piano and composition.

Despite his exaggerated reputation, Monk was not a naïve iconoclast, throughout “Genius of Modern Music”, you can hear Monk’s roots in the stride piano he grew up on, as well as the innovations of the young be-bop players of his day, but somehow Monk transforms everything into such an assertive personal statement, that there is no way for anyone to imitate him, try as they often do. The number one salient feature of Monk’s playing is his bizarre rhythms. Somehow he juxtaposes figures and introduces abrupt changes that challenge our perception, you find yourself wondering, “did I hear that right?” Secondly, his harmonic language was quite dissonant for the time, and although such dissonance has become more common in modern jazz, Monk still maintains a language that is unmistakably his. Finally, there is a mischievous humor to Monk’s music, a playfulness that slips in a crude joke when your attention might be slipping. He’s the favored uncle in the family, although no one is quite sure why.

This is a power packed line up of songs, many of these tunes went on to be classics, and are still played today, particularly “Round bout Midnight” and “Well, You Needn’t”, but no matter who plays them, they will not sound like the versions on here.

THELONIOUS MONK Thelonious Monk Plays Duke Ellington

Album · 1956 · Bop
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“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.

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