Hard Bop by David H. Rosenthal
…In 1947 Blakey went to West Africa, where he remained for two years. Although he denies that this experience influenced his drumming, common sense would indicate the opposite. In any case, what is certain is that when he returned, he played with considerably more maturity and was soon among the most highly regarded musicians in New York City. A list of his employers during the early fifties will indicate the esteem he enjoyed: Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Sonny Stitt, and a host of others, including Buddy De Franco, with whom he spent a year before getting together with Silver to form the second, cooperative Jazz Messengers in 1955.
By that time, Blakey had developed a fiercely individual style that was simultaneously volcanic and severe. Blakey was among the least superfluously “busy” drummers in jazz. His rhythmic sense was so sharp, and his foot and wrist control so precise, that he needed do little more than “keep time” to create an atmosphere of tremendous power. His accompanying figures, sparingly used, came at the right moments to support the soloist with sudden bursts of energy. Likewise, Blakey’s solos were usually structured around a few melodic motifs played against each other contrapuntally as he built to a climax. Musical coherence was never sacrificed to technical flash.
The cut on this first collective outing, entitled Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers, that made the deepest impression on musicians was Silver’s gospel-flavored “The Preacher.” The composition grew out of his habit of playing “Show Me the Way to Go Home” as his final number of the evening. “The Preacher,” however, nearly went unrecorded, since Alfred Lion of Blue Note, in Horace’s words, “said it was too old\u00ad timey, that no one would go for it.” The tune was indeed old\u00ad timey, “corny” in bebop terms, showing that, again in Silver’s words, the Jazz Messengers could “reach way back and get that old time, gutbucket barroom feeling with just a taste of the back-beat.” Fired by the song’s rocking beat, Dorham and Mobley soar into blues-drenched, vocally inflected solos. Silver follows with a typically stripped-down statement, built around first a two-chord percussive figure and then a descending run, each repeated. Before taking the tune out, the band riffs behind his funky noodling in classic call-and-response fashion.
…Heavier use of the minor mode and strong rhythmic patterning, along with slower tempos, blues-and gospel-influenced phrasing and compositions, and sometimes lusher melodies were all characteristic of hard bop as it emerged in the mid\u00ad fifties. In addition, the new music was an opening out in many directions, an unfolding of much that had been implicit in bebop but held in check by its formulas. While musicians like Brown, Silver, and Blakey were all accused of playing “simplified” versions of bebop, each of them found a personal voice by fusing what had been done in the late forties with more popular elements.Read More
The Blue Note sound: listening to the heart of Hard Bop
I think it’s safe to say that Hard Bop (as in the Blue Note sound forged by Art Blakey and Horace Silver) is the foundation of modern jazz today, even more so than the stylistic revolution (Be bop) which made it possible. Here are five prime examples.
-Michael CuscunaRead More