A Hard Look At Hard Bop
Evolving out of 1950s bebop, hard bop incorporates elements of gospel, soul and R&B. One of the style's biggest supporters, Blue Note Records, celebrated its 70th anniversary last year, and is represented by three albums here.
Although popular jazz progressed into other forms in the 1960s and beyond, hard bop never died out altogether. It's still heard today in many modern jazz recordings. Listen to five classic recordings here.
This story originally ran Jan. 26, 2009.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
Legendary drummer Art Blakey was a father of hard bop. He was also a father figure for generations of young jazz musicians who came up through his band Jazz Messengers, often moving on to become prominent figures in jazz themselves. The Jazz Messengers, for about 35 years, spread the gospel of hard bop. Blakey was able to maintain the group by replacing departing musicians with fresh young talent and giving them all room to grow. Blakey's mark on the history of jazz is indelible.
Art Farmer with Benny Golson
This is the original version of Benny Golson's classic composition. He gives a short spoken description of the titular "Killer Joe," at which point the music tells the rest of the story. Golson, who is just about an octogenarian, remains active today. His new CD, New Time, New 'Tet, carries on the tradition of his classic sound.
The picture on the cover of this CD is of John Tavares Silver, the father of one of the fathers of hard bop. A tribute full of soul, "Song for My Father" features an undercurrent of bossa nova, a sound Horace Silver was drawn to during a winter trip to Brazil. This is one of his most easily recognized tunes.
At this point in John Coltrane's career, during the mid-'50s, he'd been playing in groups led by Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk. This album paints a perfect picture of Coltrane as a player, composer and bandleader. He chose all of the musicians for this date, including Lee Morgan on trumpet and Philly "Joe" Jones on drums. "Blue Train" has a beautiful blues feel that's absolutely infectious.
Miles Davis enlists a supporting cast of all-stars on this album, including a fine rhythm section which features Horace Silver on piano, Kenny Clarke on drums and Percy Heath on bass. By this point in his career, Davis had already left his mark on bebop and cool jazz styles, so it was only natural for him to do the same for the next new sound in jazz, hard bop. "Solar" is an up-tempo piece with perfect group interplay and beautiful soloing.