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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WES MONTGOMERY The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery Album Cover The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery
WES MONTGOMERY
4.88 | 10 ratings
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HORACE SILVER Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers Album Cover Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers
HORACE SILVER
4.94 | 7 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Live at Birdland Album Cover Live at Birdland
JOHN COLTRANE
4.82 | 12 ratings
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MILES DAVIS 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis) Album Cover 'Round About Midnight (aka Miles Davis)
MILES DAVIS
4.72 | 37 ratings
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4.70 | 45 ratings
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4.69 | 55 ratings
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LEE MORGAN City Lights Album Cover City Lights
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4.87 | 6 ratings
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JACKIE MCLEAN Right Now! Album Cover Right Now!
JACKIE MCLEAN
4.83 | 7 ratings
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ART BLAKEY
4.69 | 15 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Cornbread Album Cover Cornbread
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4.72 | 9 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS
4.80 | 6 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
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4.58 | 60 ratings
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hard bop Music Reviews

JOHN ZORN John Zorn / George Lewis / Bill Frisell ‎: More News For Lulu

Live album · 1992 · Hard Bop
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snobb
John Zorn is one of key figure in New York down town scene for some last decades who for many listeners associates with radical experimentation and/or prolific accessible jazz-related releases long lasting history. Both tags are right, but Zorn has much more faces then just this. In late 80s, besides of developing one of his most shocking and influential Naked City project, based on Japanese brutal avant-rock jazzier interpretation, Zorn played in unusual trio with his regular guitarist of that time Bill Frisell and AACM trombonist George Lewis. Two albums has been recorded - both in Europe.

First one - "News For Lulu" - is mostly studio work, when its continuation "More News For Lulu" contains similar material but this time coming from two gigs - one in Paris and the other in Basel, Switzerland. Unusual trio of sax player, trombonist and guitarist plays Blue Note material,or more precisely - hard bop compositions from Sonny Clark, Hank Mobley, Big John Patton, Kenny Dorham, and Freddie Redd, in addition to one selection from Misha Mengelberg.

Most unusual is the fact that this music, recorded almost in the same time when Zorn worked with Naked City,sounds very bright, swinging, light-full and in general very optimistic. Surprisingly enough, trio doesn't cross hard bop frames too often and their down town touch on material is noticeable mostly by modern arrangements and some freer soloing.

Probably a bit too long (lasting one hour and 18 minutes),the album demonstrates some repetitiveness in a second half, but in all it's an enjoyable example of three highest class musicians' work, one among best music John Zorn ever recorded under his name and excellent entry point for newcomers with mainstream jazz background interested in John Zorn massive legacy and unorthodox modern jazz in general.

ERNIE WATTS Ernie Watts Quartet : Home Light

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
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kev rowland
Double Grammy Award-winning saxophonist Ernie Watts is back with the latest album with his quartet, which has had the same line-up of Christof Saenger (piano), Rudi Engel (bass) and Heinrich Koebberling (drums) since 2011’s ‘Oasis’, although Watts originally formed the quartet in 2004. But his own history goes back much farther than that, as he originally won a won a Downbeat Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. While he was there, Gene Quill quit Buddy Rich's Big Band, and trombonist Phil Wilson (a professor at Berklee), was asked to recommend a student as temporary replacement. A young Ernie Watts was referred, and “temporarily” stayed with Rich from 1966-1968 and toured the world, and since then has been a professional musician who works in popular music (Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan etc.), TV and film (“Ghostbusters” among literally hundreds of others), but whose first love is jazz, ever since he was blown away by Coltrane on what was then the brand-new Miles Davis album ‘Kind of Blue’.

When someone has been playing music for as many years as Watts, it is of course no surprise that he has an amazing tone, and when four top musicians have been together for this long, they all know each other incredibly well and bounce ideas off each other with panache. Watts’ sax is often the lead melody instrument, but not always, and the feeling is that this really is a band as opposed to one person with a bunch of supporters behind him. It is fresh, it is exciting, powerful, uplifting music which also includes a sense of fun and joy. It is bright, full of life and light: the sun breaking through on the horizon is a perfectly apt photo for the cover as it ties in directly with this. The band work through different styles from bebop and gospel through to the likes of swing, always with aplomb, care and direction. Watts will even sit back out of the music for complete sections to allow the others to take the lead, knowing he doesn’t always have to be in the thick of it for magic to happen. Ian Patterson at All About Jazz has been quoted as saying about Watts “Not just at the top of his game, but at the top of THE game”, and here is yet another example of why that is the case.

JACK MOUSE Jack Mouse Group : Intimate Adversary

Album · 2018 · Hard Bop
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kev rowland
Some albums feature musicians so in tune with each other and what everyone is doing that it isn’t possible to slip a sheet of paper between them, as they are just so tight, and that is exactly the case here. Jack Mouse sits at the back and drives his quintet through post-bop jazz which also contains swing and even brings in some influences of gospel blues. Jack shuffles, he fills, he never rests, and it is his energy which allows the rest of the band to relax and take the music where it needs to go and never having to force it. His last albums were improvisational, but here he has concentrated on compositions and arrangements and his band just sit in, harmonise, and play sublimely.

John McLean (guitar) and Bob Bowman (bass) do take their opportunity to shine when it is presented to them, but they are mostly here to provide support to Scott Robinson (tenor saxophone) and Art Davis (trumpet, flugelhorn) who takes their own solos when the time arises, but really come to the fore when they bounce against each other. But for me it is the drums which make this, with different rhythms and styles being put up and taken down as the melodies keep moving, and one can imagine the band playing in a circle, looking at each other, but more importantly looking at Jack. Simply superb.

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.

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