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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JOHN COLTRANE Blue Train Album Cover Blue Train
JOHN COLTRANE
4.74 | 56 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE My Favorite Things Album Cover My Favorite Things
JOHN COLTRANE
4.73 | 48 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 | 38 ratings
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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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JOHN COLTRANE Live at Birdland Album Cover Live at Birdland
JOHN COLTRANE
4.80 | 13 ratings
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HORACE SILVER Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers Album Cover Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers
HORACE SILVER
4.87 | 8 ratings
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LEE MORGAN City Lights Album Cover City Lights
LEE MORGAN
4.88 | 7 ratings
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ART BLAKEY Free For All Album Cover Free For All
ART BLAKEY
4.69 | 15 ratings
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JACKIE MCLEAN Right Now! Album Cover Right Now!
JACKIE MCLEAN
4.80 | 8 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.57 | 62 ratings
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MILES DAVIS Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet Album Cover Cookin' With the Miles Davis Quintet
MILES DAVIS
4.62 | 24 ratings
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CHARLES MINGUS Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Album Cover Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus
CHARLES MINGUS
4.63 | 20 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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Piano Solo
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hard bop Music Reviews

JACKIE MCLEAN Consequence

Album · 1979 · Hard Bop
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Steve Wyzard
HARD BOP DEFINED!

Jackie McLean's Consequence album was originally released as part of Blue Note's infamous LT-series 14 years after it was first recorded (December 1965). The liner notes suggest that McLean's more avant-garde albums (Let Freedom Ring/One Step Beyond/Destination Out) rendered sessions such as those that make up Consequence "too straight ahead" in comparison. Yet listening to it today, one can only wonder "what's not to like?" about this intensely visceral recording. Consequence is unequivocally one of McLean's most definitive achievements, to the point where if someone asked me, "Just what is hard bop anyway?", I would simply point them to this record.

What's so memorable about this album? From the start I must insist that all of trumpeter Lee Morgan's fans hear his performance on this record immediately. His blistering first solo on "Bluesanova", his shrieking second solo on the same track, and his solo on "Slumber" are all truly awe-inspiring. Harold Mabern's slam-bang piano work on this album can only be described as "Tyner-esque". Drummer Billy Higgins destroys absolutely everything in sight, and bassist Herbie Lewis deserves to be a little higher in the mix. For ensemble playing, watch out for the furious title track, the trade-offs on "Tolypso", and Morgan and McLean playing the heads together throughout the album, but especially on "Vernestune". Altoist McLean plays his wildest solo on the aforementioned "Vernestune", and don't miss the fiery playing behind the slower tempo of "My Old Flame".

When I first heard this album, I felt like I'd been punched in the gut. While not to be compared to a Coltrane-like intensity, the "oomph" that gives hard bop its name can be heard on every track. Consequence never fails to amaze and lift one's spirits, like all the best albums of this genre. And while "definitive" shouldn't be confused with "greatest", there's no better word to describe the epitomizing performances on this sadly underrated album.

CHICO HAMILTON Chico Hamilton Trio Introducing Freddy Gambrell

Album · 1958 · Hard Bop
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js
Freddie Gambrell is another pianist you can file under the tag, ‘one of the best piano players you never heard of.’. The reason you probably never heard of him is that he only recorded three albums, and the best of those three, “Chico Hamilton Presents Freddie Gambrell”, shows up in the Chico Hamilton discography, not Gambrell‘s. The best way I can introduce Freddie is to describe how I found his playing. I was listening to a 5 CD collection of Chico Hamilton music from the late 50s on random shuffle when I noticed this rather odd and attention grabbing pianist would show up occasionally. His playing was rooted in hard bop, but there were these weird surprises and unexpected jumps in his solos. All of this was reminding me of Herbie Nichols or Jaki Byard, but this guy was obviously neither of them. I didn’t even think that Chico ever worked with a pianist, but upon checking the CD package I see there is this one album with pianist Freddie Gambrell, someone I was not familiar with at all, so I wanted to find out more.

Apparently after recording this one album with Chico in 1958, Freddie released two more in 1959, with neither making much of an impact and although he worked regularly in San Francisco for the rest of his life, both as a pianist and big band leader, you can not find much more information about him than that. So really, the best of Freddie’s lasting legacy is just this one album with Hamilton. The style on here is west coast hard bop, in other words somewhat laid back. Chico and bassist Ben Tucker provide a rhythmic pocket for Gambrell but not much else. There is little interplay between the players and no bass or drum solos either, this is very much a Gambrell solo act. Freddie’s playing is rooted in the pre-Bill Evans school of Art Tatum and Erroll Garner, with a lot of blues thrown in as well. Then there are his unique excursions that can go anywhere unpredictably, this is what grabbed my attention about this guy in the first place, and its what continues to get my attention anytime I give him a listen. If you like any of the other pianists I referenced in this review, or other slightly off-kilter players like Monk or Ellington, then give Gambrell a try. This is one jazz musician who should be better known.

HENRY ROBINETT Jazz Standards Then, Volume 1

Album · 2019 · Hard Bop
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js
Guitarist Henry Robinett has been playing jazz since the late 70s, including stints in NYC with big names like Hal Galper, Clifford Jordon, Muhal Richard Abrams and Chico Freeman. Since the late 80s he has been recording as a leader, usually in a somewhat radio friendly style of fusion with influences from around the world. If you are already familiar with his previous albums, then it might come as a surprise that his latest offering, “Jazz Standards Volume 1”, is a set of grooving hard bop played with energy and playful creativity. These tracks were not actually recorded recently, instead, they were recorded back in 2000 and have been sitting on the shelf since then. Apparently Henry gave them a listen again and decided they were worth putting out and it’s a good thing because this is one of the better recordings of these well known tunes in recent years. Its hard breathing new life into songs that have been recorded by so many, it takes a lot from an artist to lift these up one more time, and Robinett and his quartet come through on every track.

Henry’s playing is often in a rapid abstract blues bop style, maybe somewhat similar to Joe Pass or Barney Kessel, but really he has a personal voice all his own, particularly when he goes into a skittering barrage of muted notes as sheets of sound. Pianist Joe Gilman is similar in his playing that mixes in the pocket hard bop with more extravagant excursions that push the band. As a quartet they present a healthy variety from the high speed, “The Way You Look Tonight”, to the mysterious, “Soul Eyes”, and the rambunctious free wheeling chaotic energy of “Invitation”.

BOBBY TIMMONS Chun-King

Album · 1965 · Hard Bop
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dreadpirateroberts
Bobby Timmons is well-known for playing with Blakey and Adderley but until recently I hadn’t come across his work as a leader and I found ‘Chun-King’ from 1964 and really enjoyed it.

There’s a range of standards and original compositions on this hard bop, almost funky release that has snap and drive, but also more relaxed pieces like Timmons’ take on “I Could have Danced All Night” and Gershwin’s “Someone to Look Over Me” which rhythmically is soothing – yet Timmons is almost ‘busy’ over the top.

My favourites are probably the more up-tempo ones with “Gettin' It Togetha'” and especially the title track standing out. I can’t quite put my finger on why but maybe the Keter Betts’ arrangement on that one gives me a slight post-bop feel, signaling that nice variety to the record. It was also fun to hear some bossa nova too, with the “O Grande Amor” cover.

SIMON VINCENT Simon Vincent's The Occasional Trio : Live In Berlin

Live album · 2019 · Hard Bop
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js
Simon Vincent is a modern composer who often works with electronics and other experimental sources. Occasionally he also performs as a jazz pianist with his trio under the moniker, The Occasional Trio’. Despite his ‘long haired’ and academic background, Simon’s jazz playing is often rough and blues centered, which he then colors with the abstractions of his more avant-garde leanings. Possibly it is because he performs mostly in Europe and the UK, that Vincent is not better known in the US, but this is one pianist that stateside jazz fans would really appreciate if they would give him the chance. Simon points to Monk, Brubeck and Mingus as influences. The Monkness shows up in Vincent’s rough dissonant approach, the Brubeck leanings lead to big block chords played in odd rhythms against his backup players, and you can hear Mingus in Simon’s tendency to take the blues into outside improvisations. His latest album, “Live in Berlin”, was recorded live because in Simon’s own words, “In front of an audience you tend to stretch out and take risks on the spur of the moment which makes the music more exciting, and makes it breathe and come to life.”

Simon’s partners on here include bassist Roland Fidezius and drummer Kay Lubke. Fortunately there is very little gratuitous solos for the other two, instead, all three players keep at it non-stop for the duration of the concert in constant interplay and communication. Given Simon’s diverse musical background you can expect a rather eclectic set from this free wheeling trio. The group’s tendency towards hard hitting bluesy bop shows up on “Blues in Fink”, “Well You Shouldn’t” and “Sweedad’s Pastry”. More lyrical and sensitive post bop approaches s appear on “Raindrops in June” and “Every Moment of Every Day” and an ability to freely improvise in modern idioms can be found on, “Portsmouth Blue” and “Prayer unto the People and unto the Land”.

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

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Albums with 30 ratings and more
A Love Supreme Post Bop
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The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady Progressive Big Band
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Blue Train Hard Bop
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My Favorite Things Hard Bop
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