Hard Bop

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Cool jazz's reign as the prevalent jazz style after bop's demise was short lived as many jazz players, especially on the east coast, wanted to return to a style of jazz that had a little more grit and aggression. Hard bop was a return to some of the ascetics of bop, but also offered some new differences. Hard bop brought back the faster tempos of the bop era, but in hard bop the harmonic changes did not come in such rapid fire succession and musicians found themselves stretching out on longer modal style solos. The new emphasis on albums rather than singles also led to longer songs. Hard bop players also began to bring more influences from the church, blues and RnB into jazz which foreshadowed the coming of soul jazz. Despite an influx of avant-garde jazz in the 60s, hard bop remained the prevalent jazz style until the emergence of fusion in the late 60s. Hard bop has enjoyed many revivals over the years and remains one of the most enduring and popular styles in jazz. Miles Davis is considered an early innovator in the field of hard bop, but Art Blakey and the many musicians who played in his Jazz Messengers are considered to be the epitome of the style.

hard bop top albums

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MILES DAVIS 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis) Album Cover 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis)
MILES DAVIS
4.85 | 26 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS Saxophone Colossus Album Cover Saxophone Colossus
SONNY ROLLINS
4.81 | 20 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.77 | 44 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Search for the New Land Album Cover Search for the New Land
LEE MORGAN
4.92 | 8 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Live at Birdland Album Cover Live at Birdland
JOHN COLTRANE
4.88 | 9 ratings
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YUSEF LATEEF Eastern Sounds Album Cover Eastern Sounds
YUSEF LATEEF
4.87 | 9 ratings
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LEE MORGAN The Sidewinder Album Cover The Sidewinder
LEE MORGAN
4.78 | 18 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Milestones Album Cover Milestones
MILES DAVIS
4.73 | 35 ratings
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ART BLAKEY Free For All Album Cover Free For All
ART BLAKEY
4.83 | 11 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Cornbread Album Cover Cornbread
LEE MORGAN
4.90 | 7 ratings
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WAYNE SHORTER Adam's Apple Album Cover Adam's Apple
WAYNE SHORTER
4.82 | 11 ratings
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HANK MOBLEY Workout Album Cover Workout
HANK MOBLEY
4.92 | 6 ratings
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hard bop Music Reviews

CYRUS CHESTNUT Midnight Melodies

Live album · 2014 · Hard Bop
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Matt
Another new one from that new label Smoke Sessions. This time we have the talented Cyrus Chestnut performing his first live album, “Midnight Melodies” at the Smoke Jazz Club. Trio is the band structure and as Cyrus states in the album cover notes “ That’s one thing I really liked about this particular project was that there were three equal participants versus just a bass and drummer being the support for the piano” and the recording does have that with the trio working right throughout as one working unit with some wonderful interplay and cohesiveness in their sound. Cyrus Chestnut has become one of the most highly rated pianists in Jazz currently with numerous collaborations in music with one of his very early influences being the pianist John Hicks who like Cyrus is adept at any form of Jazz. Three of John Hicks compositions are included but the album is not a tribute, it is just the band likes to play them. The recording also has three compositions included from the band with one from Cyrus and two from the drummer Victor Lewis with all three being just as good as the other great Jazz standards covered within the album from Strayhorn to Coltrane and Davis.

Then again although the composition’s are of an excellent quality this trio could take “Chopsticks” and make it sound amazing such as the talent within the band. Cyrus Chestnut on piano first became noticed by Jazz audiences in 1986 first supporting Jon Hendicks followed by Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Wynton Marsalis and Betty Carter who became another major influence in shaping Cyrus Chestnut’s music and approach with her advice. Curtis Lundy on bass has also previously worked with Betty Carter as well as John Hicks and like Cyrus has played most of these compositions right throughout their careers. The drummer is Victor Lewis who although did not work with Betty Carter, he did with Carmen Lundy (sister to Curtis) but once again it is John Hicks whose presence and influence is right there with the Trio, as Victor also spent time drumming for him. Still not a tribute album it is just all this familiarity with the band members themselves and past music collaborations brings a unique understanding into so many of the album’s compositions.

A John Hicks composition gets proceedings underway, “Two Heartbeats” with a laid back mid tempo structure Cyrus just dances over that piano building intensity to return beautifully back to the compositions beginning. Slightly quicker time with “Pocket Full of Blues” and a twang that Curtis’ bass provides between Cyrus’ piano is a delight with another stunning build throughout his solo. The next is one of Cyrus Chestnuts’ own compositions “To Be Determined” with a beautiful relaxed feel and I find from this point the album seems to improve even more with a fabulous take of “Bag’s Groove” and does Cyrus lay down one superb piano input getting quite percussive at points throughout the Milt Jackson Jazz standard and becoming an album highlight. The band members own compositions with the following by Victor Lewis the drummer “Hey, It’s Me You’re Talkin’ To” are wonderful with Victor opening with a superb drum solo and the band following with more of that amazing Cyrus piano technique all over it. Two Billy Strayhorn compositions are next with a beautiful relaxed take of the ballad “Chelsea Bridge” with U.M.M.G. ( Upper Manhattan Medical Group) following with Cyrus coming on a lovely groove for this number with a superb take of the tune to follow. There is another composition from Victor Lewis “I Wanted To Say” with a swirl coming from the pianists left hand and his right hitting high notes like ice picks you know you are in for another musical treat from Cyrus and another bonus in the number is Curtis’ superb solo on bass. “ Giant Steps” ,the ballad “Naima’s Love Song” and Miles Davis’ “The Theme” containing a band introduction and farewell from Cyrus round of this fabulous new Live recording with all of these last three numbers having wonderful takes and solos from the band.

Early days I know but this one will be mentioned at the end of the year in my top albums. Cyrus has all the Jazz space required within his play but it is not often that a pianist can go right to the other extreme filling the place with a multitude of notes and just keep sounding better. Highly ,Highly Recommended for us lovers of a great Jazz Trio and a working band.

MAL WALDRON Free At Last

Album · 1970 · Hard Bop
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snobb
Pianist Mal Waldron made his name as Billie Holiday accompanist till her last days, his solo albums in late 50s were all well-made but not virtuosic hard bop. He played with Charles Mingus,recorded "The Quest" with Eric Dolphy - Mal's most significant work of that period and nearly died from a heroin overdose. After long months of rehabilitation in hospital Mal relocated to Europe, where during followed years made strong reputation as one of most respectable American jazz expatriate.

Being always hard-bop rooted, during late 60s-early 70s he evidenced free-jazz influences, "Free At Last" titled album is one of such examples. Being historically more significant as very first release of just founded German ECM label (still without traces of what later will be widely known as "ECM sound"), this album contains Waldron transitional music recorded with acoustic trio (Swiss drummer Isla Eckinger plus another American Clarence Becton on drums).

Being quite free (at least by Maldron standard) this album contains five Mal originals plus ballad "Willow Weep For Me". Mostly up-tempo groovy music includes some longish bassist soloing,but Waldron piano even if a bit freer than usual demonstrates early stage of what later will become his signature style - uncomplicated beat in combination with drone and tuneful non-virtuosic not-too-fast playing.

Album's compositions are still far not so memorable as Waldron later works and rhythm section is all but "free at last" (not Waldron himself is to be honest as well). Mostly interesting as Mal's early step on what very soon will become his visit card, this album is still quite pleasant and far not boring. For ECM collectors original version is a Holy Grail, fortunately reissued on CD by ECM in early 90s(and once again in Japan - in 2014).

CHARLES MINGUS Mingus at the Bohemia (aka Chazz!)

Live album · 1956 · Hard Bop
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js
“Mingus at the Bohemia” comes from a live concert early in Mingus' career and features some of his first originals in the avant-blues style that will come to be the hallmark of his career. Album opener, “Jump Monk”, is driving hard bop with a catchy and insistent arrangement that teeters on the verge of chaos. This tune would go on to be one of Mingus’ most played classics, and it sums up so much of what his career would be about. The other tunes on here are no slouches either, and they present the variety that Mingus was working with. “Serenade in Blue” and “Work Song” continue the hard bop wrapped in interesting arrangements initiated by “Jump Monk”, and “Septemberly” has Mingus combining “September in the Rain” with “Tenderly” in an odd arrangement that has the two horn players each playing one of the tunes simultaneously. Likewise, “All the Things You C Sharp Minor” is an unlikely mix of “All the Things You Are” with a theme from Rachmaninoff, and “Percussion Discussion” is avant-garde third stream chamber music with Mingus on bass and guest Max Roach on percussion. Apparently Charles added a piccolo bass part to this one in the studio. All combined, the tunes on this CD constitute a very imaginative collection of music that was well ahead of its time.

The music on here is great, but the recorded sound is not as great. The horns and drums come in loud and clear, but the bass and piano are low and can almost disappear if you don’t turn it up. This is unfortunate because the virtuoso piano playing of Mal Waldron is the star of the show here. Mal’s ability to fuse blues with humorous extravagances and deconstructionist blunt force mixes well with Mingus’ musical vision, as both seem to draw upon a combination of Ellington, Monk and the new avant-garde. Mal gets to show off his well developed classical chops when he combines the structures of the standard “All the Things You Are”, with a well known Rachmaninoff theme, its one of those typical musician rehearsal jokes that made it to the stage, and it’s a surprisingly clever trick when Mal pulls it off.

Conventional wisdom maintains that the two horn players on here were a bit old school for what Mingus and Waldron were up to, but they both do a great job playing Mingus’ unusual arrangements and plunge right into the spirit. Their solos, particularly trombonist Eddie Bert, are more conventional, but Eddie’s soft swinging style just adds to the interesting incongruities of the entire project. This isn’t Mingus’ best recording, the sound is uneven, his musical vision is not totally unified yet, and his ensemble is not exactly on his same beam, but this is still an interesting and eclectic album for any Mingus fan to own.

JIMMY COBB The Original Mob

Album · 2014 · Hard Bop
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Matt
Jimmy Cobb has been drumming for 70 years at the time of this recent release, “The Original Mob” and is best remembered for his participation in the classic Miles Davis album “Kind Of Blue” as well he contributed to 6 others with Miles during that period from the late fifties to the mid sixties. Played on half a dozen John Coltrane albums around the same time, worked with Bill Evans, Dizzy Gillespie, Billy Holiday, Wes Montgomery, Nat Adderley and his slightly more famous brother Cannonball. He states on the albums notes that it was through Cannonball Adderley that he was originally introduced to Miles but that all happened over 50 years ago. Today Jimmy at age 86 is playing his drums superbly and he has not lost any touch with age as evidenced upon hearing this new album from Smoke Sessions. If you are wondering, Smoke is a Jazz Club in New York and where the album was recorded. The club was empty at the recording time making the album closer to a studio session with great fresh results emanating from the one day.

Cobb’s Mob is the name of Jimmy’s band and throughout the last twenty years has gone through changes in its line up but with “The Original Mob” as the title implies the line up is precisely that from 20 years prior. Peter Bernstein the guitarist is credited with naming them when he and Brad Mehldau were students in one of Jimmy Cobb’s Jazz classes and it was Peter who brought in the bassist John Webber. Since this time Brad Mehldau’s Jazz career has passed orbit and one only knows where he keeps all his awards for pianist of the year after really hitting the scene when he started to release his “Art Of The Trio” albums back in the later nineties. Peter Bernstein’s career is not far behind Brad’s with Jimmy stating in the notes that he plays with a similarity to Grant Green the famous Blue Note Jazz guitarist. Peter has been leading an organ based trio primarily with Larry Goldings and drummer Bill Stewart since to rave reviews and worked with quite a few current big names in Jazz such as Joshua Redman, organist Melvin Rhyne, Nicholas Payton, Diana Krall, Dr Lonnie Smith, Tom Harrell and even Sonny Rollins. The bassist John Webber is another having played with Johnny Griffiin, George Coleman, Eric Alexander and freelance appearances with Etta James, Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson and a list of many more which one could add to all his past collaborations.

The albums compositions are a quite a nice mix with standards, covers and original numbers from the band with all supplying one each and Jimmy providing two of his own.”Old Devil Moon” starts the album off with John Webber’s bass coming in first being quickly joined by drums and piano. Peter Bernstein’s guitar provides a wonderful solo which is followed by Brad’s turn on piano over this fairly up tempo take. Brad Mehldau is an absolute joy with his piano input and it keeps coming with the following mid tempo George Coleman composition, “Amsterdam after Dark” where Peter Bernstein provides one lovely little groove again right across the top followed by more from Brad. “Sunday In New York” has a great skip for all the band to work around, “Stranger In Paradise” with its quick time and Jimmy’s cracker of a drum solo just keeps the album motoring along quite nicely. The album’s fifth composition “Unrequited” is from Brad with Peter Bernstein’s guitar dropped and Brad plays with that beautiful touch that he has on piano with John Webber’s bass providing a wonderful counter and solo combined with Jimmy’s stick work and drumming. Great stuff. The two Jimmy Cobb compositions follow providing plenty of groove from “Composition 101”with the next, “Remembering U” being the album’s only ballad. The standard “Nobody Else But Me” is next with the Peter Bernstein composition “Minor Blues” following being quite a delight. John Webber’s composition “Lickety Split” with it’s up tempo timing and stellar contributions from Peter Bernstein’s guitar and Jimmy’s drum solo brings the album to a close.

Fabulous Jazz with plenty of good old fashioned Bop. Peter Bernstein and his guitar almost steal the show but with such other wonderful musicians present he did not quite get away with it. Highly recommended new release from a smokin’ new Jazz label, Smoke Sessions Records.

BOBBY HUTCHERSON Enjoy the View

Album · 2014 · Hard Bop
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Matt
Back in 1976 Bobby was looking at “The View From The Inside” with his 2nd last Blue Note recording before the Label folded for a period lasting to the mid eighties but this time with his newest release Bobby recommends to “Enjoy The View” and yes, it is on Blue Note. Bobby Hutcherson is one of Jazz music’s greats having played vibraphone on so many albums that today are considered classics in this genre with a myriad of styles with many fans still trying to work out whether it is his Bop or early Avante Garde contributions, they enjoy better. “Enjoy The View” is Bobby Hutcherson’s return to Blue Note records after an hiatus of 37 years and with a period away for this length of time you would expect nothing but the best and Don Was being Blue Note’s President within EMI is the album’s Producer. Could one find a better Producer having recorded so many artists with styles ranging from Country to Algerian Rai but this time it is some great Boppin’ Jazz. Bobby first recorded for Blue Note in 1963 ( Jackie McLean sideman)and stayed with the label till it’s brief demise in 1979 with Horace Silver the pianist being the only other artist still remaining from the Classic period during the time that Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff owned it.

Joey DeFrancesco provides organ for the album and with the addition of trumpet on one of the compositions and having been playing with Bobby for a few years and been included on his last Live album brings a wonderful understanding and feel to the music. David Sanborn is playing alto saxophone with his unique slightly abrasive tone and he also has been recently performing in Joey DeFrancesco’s trio and provides beautiful input with his addition. Both musicians also provide two compositions of their own to the album . The great Billy Hart is drumming who is currently signed with ECM and doing an absolutely fantastic job for someone who is 74 and last but not least is Bobby Hutcherson on vibraphone who has one up on Billy being 73 years of age at the present time of this album’s release. All of these artists have practically played with the entire Jazz community at some time, if all their projects, bands etc were combined in a group . All this experience shows with the music one hears performed by the band during the album’s duration

There are seven compositions contained on the record with David Sanborn’s “Delia” commencing the album where David employs his wonderful abrasive alto saxophone tone during a solo interlinked with space and varying twists to open. Bobby follows with that sparse technique that he employs when playing vibes with Joey DeFrancesco providing an ample laid back groove from Hammond organ and adding quite a nice little solo to follow Bobby’s. “Don Is” is Joey’s turn for a composition and perhaps a hat tip to Don Was which has a slight Avante touch used for the tunes opening with a wonderful mid tempo groove provided for Bobby’s vibes to lead us in. “Hey Harold” was previously included from Bobby’s “Head On” album in 1971 but the duration is not so long for this interpretation coming in at 7 minutes whereas the original was 20 with its slow tempo opening but the tune motors along quite nicely in no time and this is where Joey DeFrancesco provides some wonderful high loopy trumpet during the composition’s beginning and end, combining interplay between him and Bobby and is a lovely quick highlight. David Sanborn and Billy Hart are also superb with their input to this number. “Little Flower” is another Sanborn composition at a slower tempo than the previous with David Sanborn playing an extremely interesting beautiful solo and providing most of the tune’s lead sound. “Montara” is another of Bobby’s compositions given a new life with quite a nice variation which came from the album of the same name he released back in 1975, which is followed by a new up tempo composition from Bobby named “Teddy” with lots of drive and superb musicianship contained within from the entire band. The last track is ‘You” being another Joey De Francesco composition with some great flow coming from the band throughout this mid tempo number.

Wonderful return to his old label for Bobby Hutcherson, great band, great compositions and a great record is the result. For myself I would get it alone for David Sanborn’s superb saxophone input as I just love how he puts his solo’s together. This album is not “Dialogue”, “Stick Up” , “Happenings” or “Total Eclipse” it is a something a little different from Bobby this time. Great to see that he is still moving along nicely in his career and not sitting in the one spot after all this time which would have been so easy to do. Takes a few listens and what is better, there is constantly new things to hear each time from the entire band throughout the record with every play.

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