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
4.79 | 31 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Giant Steps Album Cover Giant Steps
JOHN COLTRANE
4.75 | 50 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Search for the New Land Album Cover Search for the New Land
LEE MORGAN
4.84 | 13 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE Live at Birdland Album Cover Live at Birdland
JOHN COLTRANE
4.88 | 10 ratings
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SONNY ROLLINS Saxophone Colossus Album Cover Saxophone Colossus
SONNY ROLLINS
4.76 | 25 ratings
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LEE MORGAN The Sidewinder Album Cover The Sidewinder
LEE MORGAN
4.78 | 21 ratings
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LEE MORGAN Cornbread Album Cover Cornbread
LEE MORGAN
4.89 | 8 ratings
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JOHN COLTRANE "Live" at the Village Vanguard
JOHN COLTRANE
4.89 | 8 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
4.95 | 6 ratings
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HANK MOBLEY Workout Album Cover Workout
HANK MOBLEY
4.87 | 8 ratings
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JACKIE MCLEAN Destination... Out! Album Cover Destination... Out!
JACKIE MCLEAN
4.83 | 10 ratings
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GRANT GREEN Idle Moments Album Cover Idle Moments
GRANT GREEN
4.74 | 23 ratings
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hard bop Music Reviews

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.

STEVE HECKMAN Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute

Live album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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js
You certainly can’t accuse Steve Heckman for aiming low when he decided to call his new CD a ‘Coltrane Tribute’, that is quite a big claim to stake, and fortunately for the listener, Heckman mostly comes through on his promise of a tribute to a jazz legend. On “Legacy: A Coltrane Tribute”, Heckman covers various parts of Coltrane’s multi-faceted career, including his harmonically complex hard bop, the modal jams, some spiritual melodies and one from Coltrane’s famous ballad album too. All through this CD Heckman displays a beautiful tone that owes much to Coltrane, but is not a mere imitation. Steve is also well supported by a trio that features pianist Grant Levin, a particularly lively player who deserves wider recognition.

This CD is a live concert, and maybe the recording process was a little intimidating because the band sounds a little shy and tentative on the opening high energy numbers. On the third track, the ballad “Its Easy to Remember”, Heckman and his band find their footing and Steve hits wonderful heights with a soulful solo on which he finally starts cutting loose. Throughout the rest of the album, it seems Heckman’s strength is the meditative numbers, such as “Dear Lord” and “Reverend King”, where his playing takes on a more unfettered nature. On the more up-tempo numbers, pianist Grant Levin’s frenetic solos help push the energy level. Grant’s scatter shot, and sometimes humorous piano playing can recall off-the-wall chance takers like Jaki Byard, or a more tonal version of Matthew Shipp.

HAMPTON HAWES All Night Session!, Volume 3

Album · 1958 · Hard Bop
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All Night Session 3” is the third part of a recording session by Hampton Hawes and his quartet, recorded live at Contemporary Studios in Los Angeles on November 11, 1956. Being the third and final part of a lengthy session, by the time the quartet got to this one, they were ready to relax and stretch out, and for half the album, they leave the standards alone and play some free form blues based jams. Although highly acclaimed in his youth, Hawes has become somewhat of a forgotten figure in jazz, unfortunate because he could play with the best of them, which is well documented on this excellent album. Hampton has a wide range of expressions he can draw on, sometimes intense with Bud Powell flavored torrents of high speed swinging bop runs, and other times more quirky and clever ala Ahmad Jamal or Herbie Nichols. It also helps that Hawes has guitarist Jim Hall on board, another modernist with a penchant for unexpected twists of phrase. Musically this album could be called west coast hard bop, not really cool jazz per se, but drummer Bruz Freeman’s tendency to play quietly with brushes does lend a ‘cool’ flavor.

There is a lot of great playing on here, four geniuses stretching out on the blues, but the added bonus is the 5 star recording quality. I’m not sure what people were doing right then that they are not doing right now, possibly it has something to do with digital effects or overzealous compression, but this is what acoustic jazz is supposed to sound like. At the correct volume level, it sounds like you are in the same room with them, and every single line from every musician is crystal clear. Hearing the individual lines is important because when these guys jam the blues, they are not following any standard progression, instead the four are quickly tossing around ideas about possible direction, and then quickly changing again. The rate of communication in this band is intense.

LARRY CORBAN Corban Nation

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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Carmel
Guitarist Larry Corban is based in New York City and a part of the ever-growing vibrant jazz scene. You can find him regularly recording and or performing with the likes of, James Weidman, Harvie S, Steve Williams, Steve Slagle, Buddy Williams, Sylvia Cuenca, Essiet Okon Essiet, Ron Affif, Omer Avital, Avishia Cohen, Ralph Peterson Jr., Roy Hargrove, Vic Juris, Oz Noy, Nir Felder, Ben Butler, Matt Beck, Jeffrey Lee Campbell, Tim Quick and Wayne Krantz. His education background includes a Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies from Ithaca College, and he has studied privately with Pat Martino, Wayne Krantz, Joanne Brackeen, Jack Wilkins, Vic Jaris, David Fuze Fiuczynski, Mick Goodrick, Steve Brown, and Rick Beato.

The sum of this experience is immediately evident in his latest offering with the Aperturistic Trio, entitled Corban Nation, that kicks off with “In-Vision,” an up-tempo pentatonic burner, filled with strong rhythm changes throughout the song form. This track features guest artist Steve Slagle who takes up the soprano sax on this cut, weaving fine solo lines of precision. Pianist James Weidman is eloquent, swinging, and his in the pocket rhythm coupled with solid ideas builds a gateway to Corban’s flurry of single notes that are guaranteed to sear your soul. Harvie S keeps the group tightly cemented while creating an undercurrent of rhythm that swings with empowered passion, and a perfect partner for drummer Steve Williams slammin’ set rhythms.

“The Shape of Time,” is a groove based tune, that draws inspiration from the classic tune “Sunny,” while traversing different keys for the improvisational sections. Weidman utilizes fender Rhodes, to give it a classic groove sound. The group chomps and digs with an in the pocket feel for a solid listen. “Slow Fizz” begins with an ala Pat Metheny Beyond the Missouri Sky vibe, open and spacious while building into a loping swing with complex harmonics and a lilting ¾ time feel, at times reminiscent of a Scofield vibe from the 70s.

The offering is closed out befittingly with a standard “I Should Care,” which is treated with respect and eloquence. The quartet has a unique way of expanding upon the sound of a standard while still respecting its origins.

Overall, Corban Nation is a highly listenable offering with plenty of meat and potatoes, laced with introspective cuts to savor and enjoy. Each release builds upon the ever growing, ever maturing discography of Corban. A recommended listen!

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JMA TOP 5 Jazz ALBUMS

Rating by members, ranked by custom algorithm
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