Post Bop

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Part I

Post Bop is a modern jazz style that continues the distinguishing characteristics that separate jazz from the world of pop and rock; swing rhythm and extended harmonies (9th chords 11ths, altered chords, etc). Post Bop grew out of the Hard Bop genre during the early to mid 60s as musicians such as Bill Evans, Wayne Shorter, and Herbie Hancock began to introduce more extended harmonies, abstract structures and looser rhythms in their playing and compositions. When Hancock and Shorter joined Miles Davis’ quintet in the mid-60s, that group became the perfect vehicle for extending the boundaries of what could happen in a Post Bop format. The Miles Davis Quintet albums, "Nefertiti" and "Sorcer", continue to be pinnacles of Post Bop composition and performance. Some styles of free modal jazz, such as Coltrane's "A Love Supreme", are also part of the Post Bop sound. Although there are still some musicians, such as Kenny Garret, who play in that style, mostly that sound has been fading since the early 70s.

While still in its infancy, Post Bop was pushed off the radar during the 70s as many of its early proponents pursued the far more lucrative fields of fusion and smooth jazz. As the fusion fad began to fade, musicians began to tire of three chord vamps and the limitations of rock/pop rhythms and yearned to work with sophisticated chord changes and jazz rhythms again. The stage was set in the early 80s for the “young lion” movement and a return to both Post Bop and Hard Bop for a lot of young musicians and their fan base.

Today’s Post Bop covers a wide variety, from radio friendly to borderline avant-garde, and it’s a genre that is still ripe for more exploration. Generally speaking, the difference between Post Bop and Hard Bop is that Hard Bop carries a stronger trace of the blues and a more straight forward driving rhythm, but when you are trying to analyze certain artists or pieces of music, that difference is not always clear. Much of Branford Marsalis's music is a good example of jazz that sits right between post and hard bop. With some music, arguing whether it is Post Bop or Hard Bop becomes pointless, since depending on perspective, either genre can be seen as a subset of the other. Although we use the genre term Post Bop to tag the music described above, in a more generic sense, post bop can be the name of any swing based jazz music created after the passing of the be-bop era.

Part 2 - Post Bop in the New Century

As jazz continues to grow and develop, the worlds of modern fusion and post bop have grown closer together as many musicians; such as Dave Douglas, Craig Taborn, Greg Osby and others, freely mix elements into new hybrids.

At JMA, the distinction between Fusion and Post Bop continues to be that distinctive African syncopation known as "swing". Generally Post Bop should swing, while Fusion, quite often does not. What has changed, as we move further into the 21st century, is the way in which modern drummers are 'swinging'. Inventive drummers such as Jeff "Tain" Watts, Rudy Roystan and others are no longer putting the swing beat solely on the ride cymbal. Instead, they are liable to use any, or all pieces of the drum set at once, while they swing the beat. Also, the swing feel itself is often a bit disguised in modern jazz, it may not be so obvious, and the drummer may move in and out of swing feel, sometimes even within one phrase.

post bop top albums

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JOHN COLTRANE A Love Supreme Album Cover A Love Supreme
JOHN COLTRANE
4.80 | 81 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK Empyrean Isles Album Cover Empyrean Isles
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4.78 | 20 ratings
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MCCOY TYNER Sahara Album Cover Sahara
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4.76 | 16 ratings
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MCCOY TYNER The Real McCoy Album Cover The Real McCoy
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MCCOY TYNER Song for My Lady Album Cover Song for My Lady
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4.90 | 6 ratings
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HERBIE HANCOCK V.S.O.P. Album Cover V.S.O.P.
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GARY BURTON Gary Burton / Chick Corea ‎: Crystal Silence Album Cover Gary Burton / Chick Corea ‎: Crystal Silence
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MILES DAVIS Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles Album Cover Miles Davis Quintet : Miles Smiles
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JOHN SURMAN Brewster's Rooster Album Cover Brewster's Rooster
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ENRICO RAVA Easy Living Album Cover Easy Living
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post bop Music Reviews

BRAD MEHLDAU Seymour Reads the Constitution!

Album · 2018 · Post Bop
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Matt
Brad Mehldau’s latest release “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is his second for this year after his well received prior “After Bach” As with the majority of the recent Trio releases they are all not Standards but Brad’s own compositions included with a few contemporary Pop or Rock tunes thrown in with this album having two of them leaning more towards the Pop side. His old stalwart Larry Grenadier who been with him since the beginning is back on Bass with Jeff Ballard who joined the Trio in 2005 playing drums. There are eight compositions included with three being Brad’s, one Standard, two Pop and one from Elmo Hope and the other Sam Rivers.

“Spiral” is first being one of Brad’s compositions with title explaining the lay out in the composition having the higher keys climbing in an up and down in a circular manner throughout this delightful first piece. The following track being the album’s title “Seymour Reads The Constitution” is in a slower introspective manner being another one of Brad’s compositions within the album employing that technique that Brad plays on piano with his left hand keeping the basic pattern while his right is adding the improvision in different timing. Larry Grenadier brings the Bass up early during the title’s structure with Brad gradually climbing the piano’s higher notes for the remainder within this beautiful piece. “Almost Like Being in Love” is the album’s only Standard played with that McCoy Tyner influence of joy infusion with a drum solo from Jeff Ballard included within this spritely take. Elmo Hope’s composition Brad keeps well recognisable and does not stray too far from the original with the theme and this time Larry Grenadier has a shot on Bass within . It’s the Beach Boys, “Friends” with the Trio bringing forth a lovely different take to the song with Brad’s left hand keeping the time with the right adding more sparkle throughout followed by the marvellous changing “Ten Tune”. Paul McCartney gets the nod with an interesting take for the song “Great Day” from his “Flaming Pie” album and then we finish up with the Sam Rivers composition “Beatrice” where we get some great interplay between Brad on piano and Jeff on drums for just another of the album’s delights.

Wonderful new album from Brad Mehldau with a bit of difference from the majority of today’s Trio albums where quite a few seem to be primarily ballads injected with crystal clear space and although many of them I do enjoy it is refreshing to get something a bit different.

MICHIKA FUKUMORI Piano Images

Album · 2018 · Post Bop
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js
It seems like only yesterday when I was reviewing the previous Michika Fukumori album, “Quality Time”. Apparently Michika does not like to sit still for long because her new one is already here, “Piano Images”. Whereas “Quality Time” was a piano trio date, “Piano Images” is just Fukumori on the piano by herself, and to hear it you can tell she creates a full sound on her own, and in many ways really excels in this sort of solo setting. The music on her new one is slightly different too, while “Quality Time” dealt with a refined and elegant approach to jazz blues, on “Piano Images” we still hear some of that, but we also hear more of her classical background and more of the contemporary lyrical influence of her mentor, Steve Kuhn.

“Piano Images opens with a couple of Michika’s trademark sophisticated blues numbers, with “Colors of Blues’ being particularly striking as the blues alternate with drifting abstract passages reminiscent of French impressionism. Its on the following four Michika originals, grouped together as “The Seasons”, that we hear more of the classical influence in her writing. Much like Gershwin and Ellington before her, Michika seamlessly fuses jazz and classical elements so that they speak together. This classical and jazz blending will also show up on later tracks such as “Palco” and “My Muse”. On the Steve Kuhn original, “Oceans in the Sky”, Steve joins her on piano for some four handed dense, but lyrical tone colors.

Other highlights on here include two A.C. Jobim numbers, which impart a feeling of longing, and a couple of standards. “Every Time We Say Goodbye” is given an original arrangement as Michika provides a flowing counter melody to the original tune. Very much in the style of pianists such as Keith Jarret, Brad Mehldau, and the aforementioned Steve Kuhn, Michika tends to keep the melody in mind as the focus of her solos. Most of her improvisations are concise and to the point, and she is not one to give into pointless flash or excess. The appeal of this album goes beyond jazz and could probably appeal to fans of 20th century classical, as well those who enjoy instrumental art song as well.

THE BRUBECK BROTHERS Timeline

Album · 2018 · Post Bop
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js
If you have been into jazz for a long time, then you probably recall Dave Brubeck’s kids, Chris and Dan, joining with their dad on several musical endeavors and introducing Dave to staples of the hippie generation such as electronic instruments, long hair, and who knows what else. A lot of time has passed since then and Chris and Dan long ago developed their own musical personalities that stand apart from their famous father. On their recent release, “Timeline”, the brothers re-visit their father’s legacy as they pay tribute to the 60th anniversary of Dave’s famous cross-cultural trip (with Dizzy, Satch, Duke etc), on behalf of the US government, to Russia and the Middle East. Many of the tracks on “Timeline” were performed by Dave on the tour, while other tunes on here were one’s he wrote while being inspired by the music of the different countries he was visiting. To their credit, the brothers do not merely copy their father’s work, but instead update the music with new modern arrangements.

The album opens with the familiar rhythms of the classic “Blue Rondo a la Turk”, which Dan plays on the doumbek, quite possibly the Middle Eastern street instrument that inspired Dave’s original creation in 9/8 time. From here the Brubeck brothers and their talented co-stars, Mike DeMicco on guitar and Chuck Lamb on piano, move through an energetic array of hard bop, post bop and Latin jazz songs, plus a couple of ballads too. On the ballads, Chris sets aside his bass to display his smooth mellow melodic tone on the trombone. This combo is a talented foursome, but for my money, the main scene stealer is pianist Chuck Lamb who’s rhythmically intense solos give the songs a charging inertia, plus his imaginative originals, “Boundward Home” and “Prime Directive”, are two of the best tracks on the album. Another top cut on is Dave’s “Tritonis”, which has a spiraling atypical chord progression, almost psychedelic in its twisting turning patterns.

This is an excellent tribute to Dave’s musical journey long ago, and there is not a speck of nostalgia or resting on one’s past laurels to be found here. All of this music is fresh and energetic and played with vital rhythms drawn from many cultures.

GARY BURTON Gary Burton / Chick Corea ‎: Crystal Silence

Album · 1973 · Post Bop
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Steve Wyzard
VISCERAL PASTORALISM?!?

While earlier albums would go on to be highly acclaimed and sought after (such as Keith Jarrett's Facing You and the first Terje Rypdal album), Crystal Silence is the album that brought ECM Records to the attention of a much wider audience, especially in the USA. It was Gary Burton's first album for the label, and in 45 years since has never been out of print. Bringing together a wide variety of moods and atmospheres, the performances are masterly and the album is to this day a very high point in both performers' discographies. There are no classic standards, and surprisingly for a duo setting, all 9 songs have never sounded better, even though most have appeared in vastly different contexts and arrangements elsewhere.

If you enjoy jazz piano and vibraphone, what's not to like about Crystal Silence? Detractors are quick to point to this album as "Exhibit A" of the much-discussed mythological "ECM sound", or to dismiss it as the direct ancestor of Wyndham Hill pastoralism. In reality, Corea and Burton are exerting far too much energy keeping the music moving (in every sense of the term), so any claims of "haunted melancholy" can't really be taken seriously. "Senor Mouse", soporific? "Falling Grace", otherworldly? Yes, there are slower, quieter tunes, but again, this album is the complete package.

As ECM's first legitimate masterpiece, it's hard to imagine today how this album was first received upon release in 1973. Both players' very distinctive styles are immaculately served by the recording. I'll close by saying that the title track is one of their greatest performances EVER, and that the album cover remains one of ECM's best in a very crowded field.



JOHN ABERCROMBIE Up And Coming

Album · 2017 · Post Bop
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Steve Wyzard
WINTERY

Despite being 12 minutes shorter, if you liked John Abercrombie's 2013 album 39 Steps, you should also enjoy 2017's Up and Coming. It features the same supporting cast (Marc Copland, piano, Drew Gress, double bass, Joey Baron, drums) and occupies a similar subtle, measured sound world. Which is not to say the two albums are carbon copies of each other. The end-of-summer wistfulness of 39 Steps has been replaced by a duskier, even chillier atmosphere on Up and Coming that fits in well with the ECM Records "winter afternoon jazz" mystique.

All the players are in fine form, and everyone receives plenty of solo space. This is definitely a band album, with not any one performer (least of all Abercrombie) dominating the material. Whimsically, Up and Coming opens with its two shortest compositions: a dirge entitled "Joy", and the up-tempo "Flipside" that is over before it starts. Copland's searching, thoughtful playing on "Sunday School" and the stately-yet-sobering "Tears" are true highlights. Gress's rumbling double-bass work and the brushes and cymbals of Baron contribute extensively to the album's hushed, sunset-glow textures. Still, it's Abercrombie's poignant, understated tones that make this album unique, with his soloing on "Silver Circle" and "Jumbles" letting everyone know that he hasn't been relegated to a "supporting player".

Since its release, Up and Coming has taken on an added pathos after proving to be Abercrombie's final album with his passing in August 2017. There are no foreboding glimpses into the abyss, nor is this a "grand summation"/"career retrospective" album. Comparisons to recordings from decades past are rather pointless, as Up and Coming looks neither backward nor forward. It's simply four marvelously talented players doing what they do best, saying everything they have to say in 47:16. In spite of its ironic title, this is a worthy addition to the discographies of all the performers, and like 95% of everything Abercrombie ever released, will stand the test of time and repeated listening. Special mention must be made of Sheilah Rechtschaffer's remarkable cover pastel, which (like many ECM covers) visually captures and encapsulates the music contained within.

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