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 | 25 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS Saxophone Colossus Album Cover Saxophone Colossus
SONNY ROLLINS
4.81 | 20 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 Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.76 | 41 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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MILES DAVIS Milestones Album Cover Milestones
MILES DAVIS
4.75 | 33 ratings
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LEE MORGAN The Sidewinder Album Cover The Sidewinder
LEE MORGAN
4.78 | 17 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
4.83 | 10 ratings
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HANK MOBLEY Workout Album Cover Workout
HANK MOBLEY
4.92 | 6 ratings
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GRANT GREEN Idle Moments Album Cover Idle Moments
GRANT GREEN
4.74 | 21 ratings
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hard bop Music Reviews

ARCHIE SHEPP Down Home New York

Album · 1984 · Hard Bop
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snobb
After a series of mainstream recordings, Archie Shepp changed things up during the late 70s-early 80s with "Down Home New York", a great stand alone album returning more freedom to Shepp's sound.

Released on the Italian Soul Note label, 'Down Home' opens with a ten minutes long modern r'n'b influenced title song, full of energy and pulsating rhythms, openly recalling street-wise hip-hop atmosphere of the time. This Shepp original includes all the band's member's vocals, most probably this song became a reason for negative critical reaction on this album. Some critics obviously were still waiting for Shepp's return to his non-conformist free-jazz of the late 60s, or at least another comfortable hard bop album. Shepp did the unexpected step instead - releasing an album that mixes spiritual jazz, r'n'b and free-bop (which is not really all that far from what he's playing most recently). Anyway, his open eared fans received this album with big respect, and it is now known as Shepp's best work coming from the 80s.

After the title song, Shepp plays thye soulful standard, "Round About Midnight", spiced with freer soloing. After bassist Saheb Sarbib's original "May 16th", and the free-bopish and bluesy "The 4th World", Shepp closes the album with a straight take on Coltrane's "Straight Street". All the musicians are great here, particularly the very physical bassist Saheb Sarbib, and piano player Kenny Werner. Shepp himself is in great form and this release in whole represents one of these rare excellent inspired albums coming from the 80s. Its just a pity it's so short!

JOE HENDERSON In Pursuit of Blackness

Album · 1971 · Hard Bop
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Sean Trane
Maybe it took Henderson a few albums to realize that he could really let loose on Orin Keepnews’ label Milestones, but apparently, despite the album title, the music still seems pretty conventional. Indeed, while (and unlike) other Civil Right jazzy protesters like Archie, Pharoah and others, Henderson’s music remains relatively confined within a certain jazz, even into the then-new decade, despite the presence of the future-RTF’s Stanley Clarke and Lenny White. Sure George Cables’ electric piano gives some allowance on modernity, but there are two or three tracks that could’ve definitely been easily adaptable in a standard big band of yesteryear for the opening track. This album sports a duality that strikes: some of the tracks are leftovers from a live album recorded in la during the early fall 70, while the rest comes from NY sessions in the mid-spring of 71.

The following reprise of Henderson’s own Invitation follows, but the album really comes alive with Shade Of Jade that really moves forward to the new decade without forgetting the previous one. Lenny’s solo is just the right length too. Opening the flipside is the enthusiastic Gazelle, partly because I’ve always been a sucker for congas, Water’s tumba strikes the right touch with me. Of course the album’s highlight is the 13-mins+ Mind Over Matter that brings us one full light year ahead, and one can hear some Mwandishi and Bitches Brew influences, not least because of Yellen’s bass clarinet, recalling Bennie Maupin’s contributions to those two albums. Of course, purists will probably yell blasphemy, but this atheist will jump for joy at such an intense track that is IMHO, the album’s main attraction. OK, despite some modernity, we’re not yet into Canyon Lady or Multiplication yet, but you can smell them just behind the corner.

ERIC DOLPHY Status

Boxset / Compilation · 1977 · Hard Bop
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js
After Erik Dolphy’s unexpected early death in 1964, record companies began to scrape together various recordings of his and group them together as “new” albums, “essential” collections, best ofs and so on. “Status” is a two record collection that Prestige put out in 1977 that combines two previous Dolphy albums; “Erik Dolphy in Europe Vol 2” and “Here and There”. “Here and There” in itself is sort of a throw together affair with four recordings from four different Dolphy led groups. Oddly enough, one of the songs on “Here and There” is an alternate take on “Don‘t Blame Me” from the same concert that makes up “Dolphy in Europe Vol 2”. Needless to say, when Prestige put the two albums together you end up with two different versions of “Don‘t Blame Me” recorded on the same night with the alternate version from “Here and There’ being the much better recording.

All of the songs on here are excellent with the incendiary “Status Seeking” with Mal Waldron and Booker Little, and the humorously bizarre “April Fool” with Jaki Byard taking top honors. On other cuts, Dolphy’s less famous European cohorts do a great job of hanging with Erik's high flight excursions, while wisely deciding not to try to emulate him. For Dolphy fans who prefer his alto sax playing, you get plenty of that on here, plus a good dose of flute and very little bass clarinet.

Slap together albums like this usually have little appeal to collectors, so they can be had at a very reasonable price. Compare that to Dolphy’s original albums which cost a fortune by now.

ARCHIE SHEPP I Know About the Life

Album · 1981 · Hard Bop
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snobb
Archie Shepp became one of free jazz idols in late 60s-early 70s but disappointed many fans when switched towards blues-r'n'b rooted music in mid 70s.His music from late 70s-early 80s is usually strongly criticized or even ignored as fall down to simplified mainstream jazz,what is only partially true.

Starting from mid 70's Shepp become much more prolific recording several albums every year, as rule for different labels. His long lasting contract with Japanese Denon resulted in series well-produced but very often too safe and conservative hard-bop albums (it was what Japanese market expected from him first of all). Some releases on tiny Italian labels are usually most advanced, but inconsistent, and could be hardly recommendable. In fact, his best works from that time are advanced hard-bop,recorded for Danish SteepleChase."I Know About The Live" is Shepp's sole release for Canadian Sackville label ever and by its qualities it could be placed close to SteepleChase albums.

Just four compositions, recorded in Canada with quite regular quartet, including mainstream pianist Ken Werner and bop-rooted but advanced rhythm section. Santi DeBriano plays rich physical bass,similar to NHO Pedersen's one.John Betsch (ex-Billy Bang,Marilyn Crispell,Steve Lacy,etc) is advanced and technical drummer, but here he's rooted in blues as well.

Opener Monk's "Well You Needn't" sounds seriously de-constructed by Shepp's tenor soloing and squeals. Tune is never disappearing,but Shepp builds whole own quirky world around it. Shepp's own "I Know About The Life" is soulful and almost melancholic (but in good sense) here.Coltrane's "Giant Steps" are surprisingly fast and energetic, with some echoes of Shepp's sound from previous decade. Twelve minutes long closer "Round Midnight" is non-sentimental ballad, antipode of all what two decades later will be recorded for Japanese Tokuma/Venus label by many leading jazz veterans (including Shepp himself).

Not the best but representative album from Shepp's early 80's transitional period,his vision of advanced hard-bop.

P.S. Tracks order of original vinyl and Swiss Hathut CD reissue by some reason is almost oppositely different.

RAHSAAN ROLAND KIRK The Inflated Tear

Album · 1968 · Hard Bop
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js
Rahsan Roland Kirk and his music exist in a universe all their own, sure he may use some of the same tonalities and rhythms as fellow jazz and RnB musicians, and he can take things off the deep end at will much like his fellows in the avant-garde, but no one else sounds like Kirk. There is an unpretentious directness to Roland’s music, a raw street level vibe that connects to the earliest days of New Orleans. You get the feeling that if Roland had not had a recording contract, he would have been out on some street corner playing the same music. “The Inflated Tear” is a great record, but don’t expect a lot of fireworks, by Kirk standards “Tear” is fairly laid back, but its not the least bit commercial, nor does Kirk hold back on his trademark personality and creativity.

Despite the uniqueness of Kirk’s music, some parallels to other artists can be drawn. His sometimes blunt approach can recall Sun Ra and Monk, his loose sound and massive tone on the tenor may remind some of John Gilmore and his ability to mix many eras of jazz into one musical approach recalls Mingus and Elllington. All of that is here on “Inflated Tear”, but this album is also a bit mellowed with a laid back 60s beatnik vibe, somewhere along the lines of early Herbie Mann and Eddie Harris.

The album opens with “The Black and Crazy Blues”, a New Orleans dirge with modern elements which is followed by “A Laugh for Rory”, a fun upbeat cool jazz number on the flute(s). Some consider Kirk’s ability to play more than one instrument at a time to be a gimmick, but on “Rory”, and elsewhere on this album, he shows that his ability to harmonize the melody with simultaneous nose flute and concert flute is far more than a gimmick and adds some very interesting unique dimensions to his arrangements. The following tune, “Many Blessings”, contains some explosive tenor work and side one closes with the pretty flute ballad, “Fingers in the Wind”.

Side two opens with the album’s title track. This piece is more like a musical/theatrical re-telling of how a nurse accidentally blinded Kirk for life at the age of two. This one is quite different from the rest of the album and features primitive sounds on three horns at once. Despite the heavy subject matter, this is hardly indulgent and adds to that singularity that is Rahsaan. After this opening, Duke‘s “The Creole Love Call” follows and Kirk’s ability to harmonize on two horns works to good advantage as he uses Ellington’s transparent framework to include sounds of centuries past as well as the future. This one also features another strong, but short ride on the tenor. The album closes out with three bluesy hard bop numbers that show Kirk and his band working with short concise forms, no cliche gratuitous solos, everything compact and to the point with just enough solo to fit the tune. The closer, Lovellevelliloqui", has one of Kirk's best and quirkiest tenor solos on the album.

This is a great album, maybe not as far out as some of Kirk’s records, but possibly that makes this one a good first buy for somebody wanting to check out his music.

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