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Hard bop

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Title: Hard bop  
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Subject: Art Blakey, Harold Mabern, Red Clay, Miles Davis, Junior Cook
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Hard bop

Hard bop is a subgenre of jazz that is an extension of bebop (or "bop") music. Journalists and record companies began using the term in the mid-1950s[1] to describe a new current within jazz which incorporated influences from rhythm and blues, gospel music, and blues, especially in saxophone and piano playing.

David H. Rosenthal contends in his book Hard Bop that the genre is, to a large degree, the natural creation of a generation of African-American musicians who grew up at a time when bop and rhythm and blues were the dominant forms of black American music.[2]:24 Prominent hard bop musicians included Horace Silver, Charles Mingus, Art Blakey, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Tadd Dameron.

Hard bop is sometimes referred to as "funky hard bop."[1][3] The "funky" label refers to the rollicking, rhythmic feeling associated with the style.[3] The descriptor is also used to describe soul jazz, which is commonly associated with hard bop.[1][3] According to Mark C. Gridley, soul jazz more specifically refers to music with "an earthy, bluesy melodic concept and... repetitive, dance-like rhythms.... Note that some listeners make no distinction between 'soul-jazz' and 'funky hard bop,' and many musicians don't consider 'soul-jazz' to be continuous with 'hard bop.'"[1] The term "soul" suggests the church, and traditional gospel music elements such as "amen chords" (the plagal cadence) and triadic harmonies seemed to suddenly appear in jazz during the era.[3]


According to Nat Hentoff in his 1957 liner notes for the Art Blakey Columbia LP entitled Hard Bop, the phrase was originated by music critic and pianist John Mehegan, jazz reviewer of the New York Herald Tribune at that time. Hard bop first developed in the mid-1950s, and is generally seen as originating with The Jazz Messengers, a quartet led by pianist Horace Silver and drummer Art Blakey.[3][4] Some saw hard bop as a response to cool jazz and west coast jazz.[4] As Paul Tanner, Maurice Gerow, and David Megill explain, "the hard bop school... saw the new instrumentation and compositional devices used by cool musicians as gimmicks rather than valid developments of the jazz tradition."[3] However, Shelly Manne suggested that cool jazz and hard bop simply reflected their respective geographic environments: the relaxed cool jazz style reflected a more relaxed lifestyle in California, while driving bop typified the New York scene.[5] Some writers, such as James Lincoln Collier, suggest that the style was an attempt to recapture jazz as a form of African American expression.[6] Whether or not this was the intent, many musicians quickly adopted the style, regardless of race.[3]

Michael Cuscuna maintains that Silver and Blakey's efforts were in response to the New York bebop scene:

Both Art and Horace were very, very aware of what they wanted to do. They wanted to get away from the jazz scene of the early '50s, which was the Birdland scene—you hire Phil Woods or Charlie Parker or J. J. Johnson, they come and sit in with the house rhythm section, and they only play blues and standards that everybody knows. There's no rehearsal, there's no thought given to the audience. Both Horace and Art knew that the only way to get the jazz audience back and make it bigger than ever was to really make music that was memorable and planned, where you consider the audience and keep everything short. They really liked digging into blues and gospel, things with universal appeal. So they put together what was to be called the Jazz Messengers.[7]

David Rosenthal sees the development of hard bop as a response to both a decline in bebop and the rise of rhythm and blues:

The early fifties saw an extremely dynamic rhythm-and-blues scene take shape.... This music, and not cool jazz, was what chronologically separated bebop and hard bop in ghettos. Young jazz musicians, of course, enjoyed and listened to these R & B sounds which, among other things, began the amalgam of blues and gospel that would later be dubbed 'soul music.' And it is in this vigorously creative black pop music, at a time when bebop seemed to have lost both its direction and its audience, that some of hard bop's roots may be found.[2]:24

A key recording in the early development of hard bop was Silver's composition "The Preacher," which was considered "old-timey" or "corny," such that Blue Note head Alfred Lion was hesitant to record the song.[2]:38[7] However, the song became a successful hit.[7]

Miles Davis, who had performed the title track of his album Carl Perkins (pianist),[3] Bud Powell, Sonny Rollins, and Sonny Stitt.

The hard bop style enjoyed its greatest popularity in the 1950s and 1960s, but hard bop performers and elements of the music remain popular in jazz.

Noteworthy performances

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Gridley, Mark C. (1994),  
  2. ^ a b c  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h  
  4. ^ a b c Case, Brian (2006) [1997], "The Harder They Come", in  
  5. ^   Cited in Tanner et al, p. 113.
  6. ^  . Cited in Tanner et al, p. 112.
  7. ^ a b c Schaffer, Dean (2010-08-20). "Secrets of the Blue Note Vault: Michael Cuscuna on Monk, Blakey, and the One That Got Away".  

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