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

TOMOYOSHI NAKAMURA Dance with the Wind

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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snobb
Tomoyoshi Nakamura is Japanese sax player and band leader,better known by his Native project. Founded in 1999,Native traveled around the country in car playing up to 100 gigs yearly and soon became one of the leaders of what is known in Japan as "club jazz" - contemporary jazz version cleaned from chamber mannerism and adapted ultra-stylish clubbers look.

Even more - Nakamura formed another even more stylish jazz project - BLACKQP'67,popular between Japanese neo-mods. When in 2013 he went solo, Nakamura successfully returned to jazz roots, adding to mainstream jazz his renowned ultra-fashionable main street aura.

"Dance With The Wind" is his already second solo album, and it sounds as pre-Mwandishi Herbie Hancock band is playing on today's Tokyo's street. All compositions has strong (often-catchy) tunes and are played with fun and swing. Title song contains sunny and dreamy female vocals, and all album's music radiates warm,positive and very optimistic atmosphere so rare in modern music.

Does the world needs one more hard-bop album? Yes, if it is the album like "Dance With The Wind". Seasoned jazz fans cleaning the dust from their 50s and 60s jazz vinyl collections don't need to forgot that there are already new generation or two who has no idea what "golden era of jazz" is, doesn't matter is it bop,cool,or hard-bop. Nakamura's band playing in ultra-fashionable clubs is often first ever chance to them to find out so great and so unknown and new for them music. And even more important - it is alive and kicking jazz, not dusted nostalgia.

I believe albums like this can recruit many new fans to old and evergreen jazz,just give it the spin!

LOUIS HERIVEAUX Triadic Episode

Album · 2016 · Hard Bop
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js
Pianist Louis Heriveaux has been active in the Atlanta jazz scene for some time now, but only recently released his first album as a leader. One listen to “Triadic Episode” will make you wonder why this opportunity didn’t come sooner because it sounds like Louis is ready to take his place alongside some of today’s best players. Louis sites Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson and Mulgrew Miller as some of his influences, and the Peterson influence is obvious in that Heriveaux has a similar precise and clean attack, but Louis’ solos tend to move a little more to the outside than Oscar’s. Louis is one of those jazz pianists who has a big two-handed sound that is often common with those who have a classical background. Although his press kit makes no mention of a gospel background, you can definitely hear that southern US African-American church sound in his playing. If I had heard this CD in a blindfold test, I would have guessed that he was from the south.

The music on “Triadic Episode” falls roughly into the hard bop genre, but not in an overly cliché way. Many of the tune’s arrangements have interesting changeups, and drummer Terreon Gully plays all over the kit in that modern way that drummers do these days. Herriveaux’s piano solos tend to be rooted in the blues, but he uses this as a jumping off point, somewhat similar to Cedar Walton. There is a lot of inventive interaction between all three players, but don’t expect anything to leap out at you, subtlety and an avoidance of grandstanding are hallmarks of this brilliant trio.

About half of these tracks are originals, and the rest standards, some of which have been noticeably altered. Some standout cuts include a high energy deconstruction of “All the Things You Are” in 7/8 time, and album opener, “From Day to Day”, which is a sophisticated post bop waltz by Mulgrew Miller. This is hard bop for the new century, and a great CD for those who don’t need gimmicks, just really smart and soulful playing.

HANK MOBLEY Thinking Of Home

Album · 1980 · Hard Bop
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Steve Wyzard
ONE OF HIS LAST (AND BEST)

30 years after his untimely death, and we still hear the same old adages repeated about Hank Mobley: "Sonny Rollins meets Stan Getz", "the middleweight champ of the tenor sax", et al. Yes, some will always hold it against Hank that he walked the earth with some true giants and was never considered as ground-breaking or as influential as some of his peers. Even Blue Note withheld the release of many of his albums until long after they'd been recorded. This naturally led many to assume: if they're so great, why weren't they released right away? (Answer: record company politics). When Hank's work is acclaimed, it's almost always his early-to-mid 1960s albums that are mentioned, while the rest are politely dismissed or ignored.

Take a listen to Thinking of Home, recorded in 1970 and released in 1980 as one of Blue Note's highly-regarded "LT" series. This was one of Hank's last recordings before health issues forced him into early retirement. With a fabulous band (Woody Shaw: trumpet, Cedar Walton: piano, Eddie Diehl: guitar, Mickey Bass: bass, and Leroy Williams: drums), this album demands an honest re-appraisal by those who have otherwise written Hank off. A good case can even be made for Thinking of Home as a "career summation" album, as all of Mobley's influences are given a moment in the spotlight.

The album opens with a 10-minute suite, moving from an emotionally charged adagio to a straight-ahead center-section with solos, before closing with a leisurely "almost" bossa-nova. Very few could navigate so effectively through so many mood changes, but Hank pulls it off with aplomb. The late great Woody Shaw takes the first electrifying solo, and his devout following is immediately urged to buy this album to hear yet another phenomenal example of his blistering trumpet playing. "Justine", driven by Bass and Williams, is not only this album's masterpiece, but also one of Hank's greatest moments ever. This one will stay in your head long after it's over, and Mobley and Shaw's solos are simply miraculous. On "side-two", "You Gotta Hit It" provides vigorous hard bop after a relaxed opening, "Gayle's Groove" nods toward New Orleans, and "Talkin' About Gittin' It" acknowledges Hank's soul/r'n'b influences.

Don't let Thinking of Home's late release date fool you: this is more than just a "worthy addition" to the Mobley catalog or a record company cash-in. Nor is it a last desperate gasp by someone on his way out the door, but in actuality is a forward-looking statement that gives a tantalizing taste of what could have been had Hank been allowed to continue into the 1970s. This album will repay many re-listens, and I highly recommend it to all Mobley and Shaw fans, as well as to those who enjoy the classic Blue Note sound.

KRZYSZTOF SADOWSKI Swing Party

Album · 1979 · Hard Bop
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js
With today’s internet, different regions of the jazz world are so well connected that once obvious regional differences in music are slowly disappearing. Its just too easy for artists all around the world to keep up with what’s happening in NYC, or London or Tokyo, or anywhere else with any kind of jazz scene. Such was not the case in the late 70s, particularly in Communist controlled countries such as Poland, where the latest musical trends from NYC were not as important as daily survival and trying to duck the watchful eye of ‘the authorities’. In 1979, much of the jazz world was mired in fuzak, while the ‘new lion’ movement, and a new downtown NY scene were just around the corner. None of these latest trends were happening in culturally cut-off Poland, where jazz musicians operated without the restrictions of following the latest trends from the US. All of this background helps explain this somewhat ‘odd for 79’ “Swing Party” album by Poland’s Krzysztof Sadowski, on which Sadowski plays old school swing/hard bop/soul jazz with a full stop organ sound that recalls lounge music of the 1950s. It’s a well made and spirited album, but if it had come out in the states in 79, it would have been a complete oddity, which is of course is not necessarily a bad thing.

Long winded cultural explanations aside, “Swing Party” is a solid piece of organ based hard bop groove that recalls pre-Jimmy Smith organists such as Wild Bill Davis and Doc Bagby. Not only is the music tastefully retro, but Sadowski uses a full ‘theatre’ sound on his Hammond, a sound that had disappeared from the international jazz scene a couple decades earlier, replaced by the leaner sound of Jimmy Smith and his many followers. Sadowski is aided on here by four powerful tenor soloists whose soloing styles range from bluesy Sonny Stitt, to more ‘outside’ Coltrane influenced flights. The tunes range from well known standards such as “Tenderly” and “Honey Suckle Rose”, to some neo-bop originals by Sadowski.

If you enjoy 1950s Hammond organ based jazz, this record will not disappoint, Sadowski’s playing is energetic, and the same can be said for his four tenors, all of whom sound like they deserved more recognition outside of Poland. The only thing that will let on that this record was actually recorded in 1979 is the recording date marked on the outside liner notes.

MASAHIKO TOGASHI Update: Live at Pit Inn Shinjuku on December 16, 1995 (with J.J. Spirits)

Live album · 1996 · Hard Bop
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snobb
One of Japanese free jazz corner stone percussionist Masahiko Togashi is known mostly by his late 60s-early 70s advanced recordings but actually he continued playing and recording up to the beginning of new century. His music is mostly all avant-garde jazz but there is a rare exemption - his J.J.Spirits (or Japan Jazz Spirits).

All-stars quartet containing beside of Togashi legendary pianist Masahiko Satoh (another Japanese free jazz cult figure),sax player Kohsuke Mine (better known by his excellent albums from early 70s) and bassist Nobuyoshi Ino. Surprisingly enough for band of such background, J.J. Spirits played mostly jazz standards not all that far from originals.

Quartet released three albums in early 90s, but here on "Update" is reunited again for one gig celebrating 40th Anniversary of Togashi's musical activities. Series of Anniversary's concerts took place in Tokyo's Shinjuku Pit Inn, some material has been recorded and released ("Update" is second album in Anniversary concert series).

Here on this live gig (as almost on any other music recorded by Togashi as leader) extremely important factor is great team and band's members communication. Togashi was better organizer than leading artist, and his all vest albums are well organized collaborative works. On "Update" (which have been released by tiny Take One Record and is true obscurity doesn't even presented on such complete sites as discogs.com)quartet of advanced jazz musicians plays full-bodied groovy mainstream jazz with some unorthodox soloing and obviously they all have fun!

Two Togashi originals ("Monk's hat blues" and "My old dreams") sound as is they are evergreen hard -bop era standards, and his third "Rumba de funk" mixing hard-bop, funk and some Latin would perfectly fit on one of Hancock's pre-fusion albums.

Nobuyoshi Ino's acoutsic bass is physical, deep and rich - all music is full of it's velvet sound, recalling early Three Blind MIce's audiophile albums. Masahiko Satoh, who can be heard playing straight extremely rare, demonstrates how good he is in this unusual for him role (he still adds quirkiness and complexity to piano line,but anyway his playing is bob-rooted). True album's hero is sax player Kohsuke Mine, who almost disappeared from jazz scene after he released some exceptional albums in early-mid 70s.

All album sounds as one of those fantastic hard-bop albums from 60s where jazz spirit was all around, just with big respect transferred to mid 90s. It is not a regular Togashi's recording but music here is so great that could be recommended for everyone from jazz purist to advanced jazz fan.

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