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.

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hard bop Music Reviews

ART BLAKEY Hard Bop

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
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Matt
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

JOHN FEDCHOCK Reminiscence

Live album · 2018 · Hard Bop
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js
If you enjoyed John Fedchock’s 2015 release, “Fluidity”, then there is a good chance you will like his new one, “Reminiscence”, as well as both CDs contain material recorded during the same three night run at the nightclub Havana Nights in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Apparently Fedchock was recently going through the tapes of those shows and realized he easily had enough strong material on hand to get one more CD release out of those performances. The closing track on “Reminiscence” is from an older show at the same club, but you would never notice any difference if someone didn’t tell you. Much like “Fluidity”, “Reminiscence” contains a mix of originals and standards all arranged so that everything blends together into a congruent set.

John Fedchock is mostly known for his big band work in NYC where he has been holding concerts and releasing albums for some 20 years now. Despite his success with the large ensembles, John also likes to work with combos in small clubs as it allows the musicians to stretch out and take chances that can’t happen in more heavily arranged ensembles. In Fedchock’s own words, “playing in this (small club) setting allows the players more of a chance to interact and create an intimate conversation through improvisation”. The performers that John has chosen on here are all well known to him and have performed with him many times in the past and include John Toomey on piano, Jimmy Masters on bass and Dave Ratajczak on drums.

“Reminiscence” opens with a couple of up-tempo bluesy originals that establish the players strengths. Fedchock is not a particularly flashy player, but he is a master of endless melodic variations that always swing. Toomey makes for a good contrast to Fedchock, on the up tempo numbers he is apt to get a little crazy with some full fisted attacks that have some similarities to Jaki Byard. On the more laid back tracks he gets more mysterious, sometimes recalling Herbie Hancock’s “Speak Like a Child” album. Solo space for Jimmy and Dave is limited, but maybe that’s not a bad thing, a good rhythm section should feel no shame in providing a swinging drive for the lead instruments. There is a good variety to the song choices with four groove numbers, one Bossa Nova and two semi-ballads. Some call this type of jazz “straight ahead”, which makes for a good description because throughout, John Fedchock avoids any bad detours.

ANDREA MORELLI Waves

Album · 2017 · Hard Bop
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paperoga58
On Andrea Morelli's new album, "Waves", three close-knit musicians explore the expressive possibilities offered by the sax trio. If the starting point of the Hard Up Trio is solid hard bop, then these nine tracks show us how Andrea Morelli, Massimo Spano and Alessandro Garau can move the barycentre towards different directions. First of all, there is the groove of opener, "Australopithecus", and the slightly Caribbean reflections of "Waves". Then a quick ex cursus in the radical seasons with the thoughtful "Calma Platta", and the articulated path of "Rithim no Change". There is also the pressing step of "Toledo", and the more metropolitan and nervous dimension on "Sync", plus the calm and intimate blues of "Internal Space". A ballad, "Solitude", is interpreted with fluid intensity and then the final and fast "Jungle Bells", on with which the trio gets closer to the atmosphere of bop.

The sound spectrum is widened by the choice of the three saxophones used by Morelli: above all tenor, and then soprano and sopranino: in this way, the songs take obviously different accents, while maintaining a background coherence that animates the whole album and comes from the aesthetic foundations chosen by the trio. The jazz of the fifties and early sixties, are Andrea's heroes and his logic, the vocabulary of sound and the substance of language: the references to Monk, Rollins, Ornette Coleman or Wayne Shorter - but also to Horace Silver and Dizzy Gillespie and, of course, to many other musicians of those seasons - is filtered through the agile formula of the sax trio and through the always convincing interplay between the three musicians."Waves" is part of the traditions of jazz: Morelli, Spano and Garau let us understand how they have listened and analyzed the records of the jazz greats and have deepened and developed their own way of interpreting from a comparison - fertile and not merely imitative - with the notes and the spirit of those works. - Fabio Ciminiera

Tre musicisti affiatati esplorano le possibilità espressive offerte dal sax trio. Se il punto di partenza dell'Hard Up Trio è un solido hard bop, le nove tracce ci mostrano come Andrea Morelli, Massimo Spano e Alessandro Garau spostino il baricentro verso direzioni diverse. Innanzitutto, il groove dell'apertura di Australopithecus e i riflessi lievemente caraibici di Waves, un veloce ex cursus nelle stagioni radicali con la riflessiva Calma Piatta e con il percorso articolato di Rhythm no Changes, il passo incalzante di Toledo e la dimensione più metropolitana e nervosa di Sync, il blues pacato e intimo di Internal Space, una ballata, Solitude, interpretata con disposizione fluida e intensa e la conclusiva e veloce Jungle Bells, con cui il trio si riavvicina alle atmosfere del bop.

Lo spettro sonoro viene ampliato dalla scelta dei tre sassofoni utilizzati da Morelli: tenore, soprattutto, e poi soprano e sopranino: in questo modo, i brani prendono accenti ovviamente diversi, pur mantenendo una coerenza di fondo che anima tutto il disco e proviene dal riferimento continuo alle fondamenta estetiche scelte dal trio. Il jazz degli anni Cinquanta e dell'inizio degli anni Sessanta, i suoi eroi e le sue logiche, il vocabolario sonoro e la sostanza del linguaggio: il riferimento ai vari Monk, Rollins, Ornette Coleman o Wayne Shorter - ma anche ad Horace Silver e Dizzy Gillespie e, naturalmente, a molti altri musicisti di quelle stagioni - viene filtrato attraverso la formula agile del sax trio e attraverso l'interplay sempre convincente tra i tre musicisti. Pur senza rinunciare al proprio punto di vista, Waves si colloca nell'alveo delle tradizioni del jazz: Morelli, Spano e Garau lasciano capire come abbiano ascoltato e sviscerato i dischi dei grandi del jazz e abbiano approfondito e sviluppato il loro modo di interpretare a partire da un confronto - fertile e non meramente imitativo - con le note e con lo spirito di quei lavori. - Fabio Ciminera

STEVE SLAGLE Dedication

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
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kev rowland
By the time Steve was 18 he was already playing with Stevie Wonder, and since the Seventies he has followed a path that has seen him lead his own bands, played in others, and more recently has been in the Slagle/Stryker band. Guitarist Dave Stryker is special guest on this album, playing on six of the nine songs, and composing one of them (there is just one other non-Slagle original here, Wayne Shorter's 'Charcoal Blues"). Each of the nine songs here are dedicated to someone or something in particular, such as "Sun Song" being for Sonny Rollins, while "Sofi" is for Steve's own daughter, Sophia.

When someone has been performing at the top of the game for forty years they are able to easily find star musicians to play with them, and each of those on this album need special mention as the combination of their talents is just superb. Lawrence Fields has an incredibly delicate touch on piano, either taking the lead, providing simple chords as an accompaniment or duetting gracefully with Steve. Scott Colley never seems to take a rest on his bass, as he moves all over the instrument providing counter-melodies, and drummer Bill Stewart is never content to sit in just one style or beat as provides fills, rim shots and breaks while somehow keeping it all together. Roman Diaz only features on five of the nine songs, but the use of conga and percussion adds a very Latin feel to the sound when he is involved.

Then of course there is the man himself out front, providing fluid solos and always leading the way. He also allows plenty of space within the arrangements so that his playing maintains its impact and never becomes just a blur of notes, but he keeps the soul of the music alive and swinging. There is always plenty of room for everyone to shine, and the vitality of the album is incredibly infectious. Music to make the jazz lover smile

THELONIOUS MONK Brilliant Corners

Album · 1957 · Hard Bop
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js
Not only is “Brilliant Corners” one of Thelonious Monk’s best albums, but its also considered one of the better recordings in the history of jazz. Don’t expect a lot of fireworks from this one though, instead, most of these blues based tunes are played in laid back medium tempos, or even slower, but do expect maximum creativity and a brilliant ensemble that moves together as one mind. Monk does have a particularly strong crew assembled here, with Sonny Rollins and Max Roach on board, plus Ernie Henry and Oscar Pettiford are no slouches either. Clark Terry and Paul Chambers replace Henry and Pettiford for one cut, but they too are up for the great interplay that goes down on this disc.

The album opens with the title cut “Brilliant Corners”, and what a tour de force this one is. This composition has Monk working with rapidly changing tempos and time signatures, such things may be more common today, but this was fairly new ground in 1957, and “Corners” still sounds very modern and ‘cutting edge’ today. This is followed by the laid back avant-blues of “Ba-lue Bolivar Ba-lues-are”. Although “Bolivar” may not be as radical as the album opener, it still leaves plenty of room for ‘Monkish’ off-kilter solos and slippery interactions. Side two opens with the ballad like “Pannonica”, on which Monk plays the delicate bell like celeste. His odd approach to harmony sounds even more peculiar on this keyboard, the resultant exotic sounds might have you thinking that we are now in a universe parallel to Sun Ra.

“I Surrender Dear” is a standard that Monk plays in old school stride style and it is the only non-original piece on the album. Its presence acts as an interesting contrast to the more ‘out there’ aspects of the other numbers. The album closes with the Afro-Carribean flavors of “Bemsha Swing”, on which Max plays rumbling tympanies behind the soloists. Monk’s second solo after the trumpet is just splashes of sound and color, foreshadowing the world of avant-garde jazz that was right around the corner in ‘57. If you want to hear why so many jazz fans get effusive when discussing Thelonious Monk, give this one a spin.

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