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

BOBBY HUTCHERSON Live at Montreux

Live album · 1974 · Hard Bop
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Steve Wyzard
LIVE MASTERPIECE

It's now been a full year since we lost the late, great Bobby Hutcherson, and for all those who enjoy his acclaimed mid-1960's albums, you really owe it to yourself to track down his 1974 album Live at Montreux. Not only is it Bobby's best release of the 1970's, but it's also one of the best (in a very crowded field) live albums in that decade by ANYBODY.

Recorded at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival and originally released only in Japan and Europe, this disc restores the full 51-minute set to its fiery glory ("Farallone" did not appear on the LP). No ballads, just two long Hutcherson compositions not available anywhere else, and two of the best by trumpeter Woody Shaw. One awe-inspiring solo follows another, and the crowd's response is electric! Don't let the "no name" rhythm section discourage you: they all keep things moving and acquit themselves admirably, especially drummer Larry Hancock who continuously threatens to steal the show.

Since being restored and reissued in 1994, this album's availability has been "spotty" to say the least. With great recorded sound and phenomenal performances, Live at Montreux should be far better known than it is, especially by Hutcherson and Shaw fans. If you are even mildly familiar with the performers and this one crosses your path, spare no expense!

MICHAEL RABINOWITZ Uncharted Waters

Album · 2017 · Hard Bop
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kev rowland
When I saw that this album had been released, I knew I had to hear it for myself: I mean, just how many jazz albums have you come across where the band leader plays bassoon? Michael has been making a name for himself since graduating with a BFA in music performance from SUNY at Purchase in the late seventies. He is highly regarded as an improviser within the scene, and has played with and collaborated in many different settings. He first came across Nat Harris (guitar) and Ruslan Khain (bass) in 1995 at the Kavehaz jazz club in New York City, and the trio developed a sound together while playing across the New York metro area. Ten years later he played with Vince Ector (drums) with the Charles Mingus Orchestra, and from there the band Bassoon In The Wild was born. This is their first album, although it is credited solely to Michael.

I don’t think I’ve ever come across a bassoon as a lead instrument in any musical style, and on hearing this I wonder why on earth not? In many ways, it is similar to a baritone sax, but there is more depth and vitality, as well as a surprisingly high register. Michael is an undoubted master, making this large and ungainly instrument do exactly what he requires. He has an incredibly fluid approach, and the notes seem to sweep into each other, almost as if they are a living being. He is often at the forefront of the sound, but is also prepared to take a back seat and let the others take the lead when the moment is right. This is the type of relaxed jazz where each player is a master, and all know that there is no need to be flashy or play five thousand notes to the bar, but rather [play exactly the right note at exactly the right time to enhance the overall feel.

This album isn’t available until the beginning of July, but anyone who wants some classic jazz with some incredibly warm sounds and memorable playing, should have this noted in their diary.

LEIGH PILZER Strunkin’

Live album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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Carmel
Robust tonality, and clearly articulated lines are what you can expect from this baritone horn player. Though this is Pilzer’s debut offering, it is a long awaited one. A regular member of the DIVA Jazz Orchestra and a member of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra, the Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra, and Shannon Gunn and the Bullettes. Pilzer has already enjoyed countless performances and touring opportunities with SJMO, DIVA, and the National Symphony Orchestra, she has toured across the United States and in Austria, Canada, Croatia, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Holland, and Russia. She also freelances with a variety of ensembles in the mid-Atlantic region.

Her debut album Strunkin’ is a wonderful collection of straight-ahead originals that swing with a deep rooted historical understanding of the tradition. Each player is a centered and focused player in their own right, but together, they exhibit and unit prowess that locks very tightly.

The title track begins with a harmonized melody between bari, trombone and arco bass, creating an immediate signal to the listener they are in for a be-bop journey. Pilzer uses her entire horn range with ease and digs deep into the low notes as Sherrie Maricle swings hard, and Jackie Warren comps with well-placed ideas to create a fabric that weaves nicely with bassist Amy Shook. If you are sitting still at this point, please check your pulse, you might need to be revived. Krupa weighs in with an inspired solo, dipping and loping with curvatures and command, then weighing in with quick witted lines, searing and soaring.

“Brag Time,” offers a slinky ala Fever type groove – it is sensuous and seductive and the group sells it nicely. On this tune, Maricle’s drumming is in full display; and you are quickly treated to why she is such a lauded drummer. Warren is front and center on this one, and her fingers glide across the keys not only with nimble agility, but with soul for miles. Trombonist, Jen Krupa offers up a saucy muted solo, honestly equal, if not better than many of her male counterparts in the industry.

Another highlight is “Duel at Dawn.” A contrafact of Donna Lee, which begins with Maricle swinging the brushes and joined by Krupa, eloquently improvising, then joined by the solid bass playing of Shook, who swings like a timeclock with soulfulness. Pilzer creates counterpoint lines to Krupa, then an answer and call type approach, landing into a harmonized melody. Pilzer is a generous leader, each tune is about the tune itself, she gives each musician their highlight depending on the tune. Truly it’s about the group sound and the overall success of the tune that is at stake here. This tune features an almost Nawlins vibe as the it progresses; joyful, fun and filled with many wild adventures.

One point I kept forgetting was, this is a live recording, the sound was outstanding and it reminded me how amazing these players really are. Can I say it - basically this album is a live clam-less recording, these ladies are tight and on the mark. The chemistry is unmatched and the audience response shows it. Hot damn, well done ladies this offering is smoking.

ERROLL GARNER Ready Take One

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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js
When Erroll Garner’s long time agent, Martha Glaser, passed away in 2014, she donated her archive of unreleased Garner recordings to the University of Pittsburg. In 2016, Glaser’s niece, Susan Rosenberg, began to release those recordings to the public, with the first installment being the CD/LP, “Ready Take One”. Its great that Garner is getting a second shot at recognition as his legacy has faded a bit over the years, an undeserved fade at that because one listen to “Ready Take One” will convince any music fan that Garner was a remarkable genius blessed with a technique that is very difficult to imitate.

Erroll came up during the swing/stride era, when pianists were expected to imitate an orchestra with a big full two handed approach, much different from today’s post bop world (with Matthew Shipp and a few others being an exception), where a more minimal and lyrical approach dominates. When bebop came along in the 40s, Garner willingly participated, but always kept his original older style intact. What is interesting about the recordings on “Ready Take One”, all of which were made in the late 60s, is that apparently Garner did take an interest in 60s soul jazz, with many of his originals on here sounding a lot like Les McCann or Gene Harris, but with Erroll’s very personal approach. A lot of fans of jazz piano probably didn’t even know that Garner played in this soul style, which is all part of the revelatory nature of these previously unreleased recordings.

If you are looking for an introduction to Garner’s music, this CD would be a great place to start, with about half of the tunes being classic standards in the older swing style, and the other half being more modern originals in the 60s soul style. Both styles blend well as Garner displays his formidable technique based around his ability to play in one time signature in the left hand, while another in the right. Throughout this album, Garner’s rhythmic sophistication is mind boggling and will have many aspiring pianists thinking they will never achieve these heights. None of this music sounds overly technical though, in his heart Garner was always a bit of a pop musician who loved to entertain with a generous, gregarious attitude often missing from today’s pianists. Another salient feature to Garner’s playing are his solo intros to the tunes that often pull from modern concert hall music. For instance, the opening to “Chase Me’ almost sounds like Schoenberg, while the opening to “Wild Music” may remind some of Rachmaninoff.

All of the cuts on here are outstanding, with some of the best being the almost avant-garde take on “Caravan”, and the sublimely beautiful original bluesy ballad, “Back to You”. It doesn’t hurt that the recoding quality of all these tracks is quite good.

WAYNE SHORTER Night Dreamer

Album · 1964 · Hard Bop
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js
“Night Dreamer” is an album that finds Wayne Shorter in a state of transition as he was still rooted in the hard bop style that started his career, but also starting to lean toward the more abstract style that will serve for the greater part of his remaining career. It’s a talented, and somewhat unusual ensemble that Shorter has assembled here. McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones, at that time, were mostly known for their famous work with Coltrane, but in 1964, when this album was recorded, Tyner and Jones were on the verge of splitting from Coltrane’s increasingly experimental approach to jazz. Also on hand is trumpeter Lee Morgan, who would go on to be the ‘go to’ trumpeter for many Blue Note soul jazz and bluesy hard bop recordings. The powerhouse grooving bass of Reggie Workman rounds out this rather eclectic, but very energetic and creative crew.

This is very much a Wayne Shorter date, he supplies all the compositions, except for one, and takes the lion share of the solo space as well. If you are not familiar with this phase of Wayne’s career, then you are in for a treat. The young Shorter was much more exuberant and playful as he proclaimed his bluesy melodic lines laced with unexpected, and sometimes odd asides. Shorter’s early sound had a big Coltrane influence, but Wayne’s playing was a little less busy and based more in the blues. There are also occasional flurries of notes that mirror the ‘free‘ players, and off-the -wall humorous phrases that may remind some of Dolphy. Some of you may come away from this recording preferring the style of the young Wayne Shorter, there is a lot to like here.

Wayne’s back up band on “Night Dreamer” is an excellent bunch, particularly McCoy Tyner, who sounds more happy and playful than when he is working with the always earnest John Coltrane. Another big plus is the recorded sound, there is a reason why people like these old Blue Note recordings, and that reason is the recording work of Rudy van Gelder. All of the tracks on here are top notch, but possibly the best track honor goes to the one ballad, The beautiful “Virgo”. Shorter is one of the most gifted melodic writers ever in the world of jazz, and his way with interesting harmonies also sets him apart. All of that is on display on “Virgo”, a tune that will become one of his better known.

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