Jazz at 100 Hour 39: The Birth of Hard Bop

Horace Silver

While the “Cool School” was emerging on the West Coast from its roots in Bix and Pres as codified by Miles in “The Birth of the Cool” sessions of 1949 – 1950, what became known as Hard Bop, a gospel- and blues-influenced variant was growing from Bebop in the east.

“If cool jazz aimed for a light timbre, hard bop preferred a sound that was heavy, dark, impassioned. The tenor replaced the alto as the saxophone of choice, and drummers worked in an assertive style that drove the soloists.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Interestingly, the emergence of these new forms plus the New Orleans revival caused a reconsideration of terms. “The word jazz achieved its present-day meaning only in the aftermath of bop, when the multiplicity of schools necessitated a unifying term. During the Swing Era, swing was used to distinguish a generation’s popular music from the New Orleans jazz style that preceded it. Now, with so many new schools competing for attention, jazz became an essential umbrella-term to cover them all.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Miles Davis after the Birth of the Cool.
Once again, and not for the last time, Miles Davis participated in defining this new direction. “Put off by underfed, over intellectualized music that claimed to be derived from his [Birth of the Cool] nonet, [Miles Davis] switched directions in 1954, with recordings … that restored jazz’s earthy directness… As Davis, never one to languish in a movement, moved forward according to his own lights…, hard bop came to embody a general attitude (tough, urban, straightforward) and a new mainstream in jazz – one that made a point of resisting overt experimentation.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Doxy. Miles Davis Quintet
(Miles Davis-tp, Sonny Rollins-ts, Horace Silver-p, Percy Heath-b, Kenny Clarke-d). From Bags Groove. 6/29/1954

Airegin. Miles Davis Quintet
(Miles Davis-tp, Sonny Rollins-ts, Horace Silver-p, Percy Heath-b, Kenny Clarke-d). From Bags Groove. 6/29/1954.
Both composed by Sonny Rollins.

Clifford Brown.
“Partly because of the [longer playing times possible with the] LP, hard bop bands were especially inclined toward longer solos. Shunning counterpoint and complicated ensemble arrangements, they relied on the yeoman display of extended improvisations. The average performance consisted of a theme, solos by some or all of the band, and a reprise of the theme.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Once in a While. Art Blakey Quartet
(Clifford Brown-tp, Horace Silver-p, Curly Russell-b, Art Blakey-d). From A Night At Birdland with Art Blakey Quintet, Vol. 1. 2/21/1954.

Sandu. Clifford Brown – Max Roach Quintet
(Clifford Brown-tp, Harold Land-ts, Richie Powell-p, George Morrow-b, Max Roach-d). From Study in Brown. 2/25/1955.
Composed by Clifford Brown.
The Brown – Roach Quintet was been described as the last great Bebop combo. Selections like Sandu support the argument that it was the first great Hard Bop group. Perhaps both positions are true. “’Sandu,’ [was] a gospel tinged piece that anticipated the later “soul” jazz side of the hard-bop movement.” – Ted Gioia

“[The Clifford Brown – Max Roach’s Quintet is] arguably the most influential jazz unit of the early 1950s… No group did more to give impetus to the hard-bop idiom than this seminal quintet. Over the next decade, this style would gradually gain acceptance as the dominant mainstream sound of modern jazz.” – Ted Gioia.

Clifford Brown died in an auto accident in 1956. “In the days after he died… and as the news filtered through to the clubs and studios up and down the country, hardened jazz musicians put away their horns and quietly went home to grieve. Only 26, Brown was almost universally liked and admired. Free of the self-destructive “personal problems” that haunted jazz at the time, he had seemed destined for ever greater things when his car skidded off the turnpike.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

Horace Silver and Art Blakey.
“In 1953, [Art] Blakey and pianist-composer Horace Silver formed a quintet (trumpet, tenor saxophone, piano, bass, and drums) called the Jazz Messengers… Within two years had codified hard bop as quintet music that combined bebop complexity (in the harmonic improvisations) with blunt simplicity (in bluesy or gospel-inspired themes and back beat rhythms).” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

Describing Horace Silver’s “Room 608,” “Not that [Horace Silver] was a simple case, or a pianist whose style you could see right through. His bass-clef chords, supporting his barrelhouse right-hand improvisations, spit forth like gravel from under a squealing tire: small nubby slivers of sound, more persuasive and recondite than Monk’s and Powell’s left-hand figures.” – Ben Ratliff

Room 608. Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Hank Mobley-ts, Horace Silver-p, Doug Watkins-b, Art Blakey-d). From Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers. 11/13/1954.

The Preacher. Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Hank Mobley-ts, Horace Silver-p, Doug Watkins-b, Art Blakey-d). From Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers. 2/6/1955.  (The Norton Jazz Recordings)
“With its sixteen-bar structure, undemanding harmonies and memorable melody, ‘The Preacher’ suggests a distant past when American folk melodies, church music, and blues seemed to share the same terrain.” – Gary Giddens & Scott Deveaux
Both composed by Horace Silver.

Ted Gioia described The Preacher as “…a funky blues piece infused with elements of gospel music” and said further, “This recording was immensely popular and widely imitated by later hard-bop bands. The time was ripe for this return to the roots. Rhythm and blues and the gospel sounds of the sanctified church were starting to exert a powerful influence on American popular music.”

“What Silver achieved, as the first major figure of the music called hard bop, was the deeper connection of several of bebop’s musical ingredients with the cultural tradition of black America, winnowing down bebop’s curlicued melodies, skipping a few steps of its rhythmic mazes, and creating a model for hipness that wasn’t based on European models of virtuosity or complexity… Essentially, he took what jazz had been since 1940 or so and made popular sense of it, smoothing out the disjunctions, the strivings for art music, and the comforts of the vernacular.” – Ben Ratliff

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers.
In 1956, Horace Silver left the band, leaving Art Blakey with the Jazz Messengers franchise that he presided over for the next 34 years, until his passing in 1990. “For a period, he relied heavily on writers outside his band, enlisting the services of Duke Jordan, Mal Waldron, and Jimmy Heath. But in time Blakey realized that his greatest successes came through nurturing the talents around him, as composers as well as players. The band’s 1958 Blue Note release Moanin’ mesmerized listeners with pianist Bobby Timmons’s title track—which evoked church music and early African American call-and-response refrains—as well as with … ‘Along Came Betty’ by Messenger saxophonist Benny Golson. Moanin’ remains one of the defining statements of the hard-bop idiom, largely because of Blakey’s willingness to let his sidemen take the lead in crafting the music.” – Ted Gioia

Moanin’. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Lee Morgan-tp, Bennie Golson-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Moanin’. 10/30/1958.
Composed by Bobby Timmons.

Along Came Betty. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Lee Morgan-tp, Bennie Golson-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Moanin’. 10/30/1958.
Composed by Benny Golson.

“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-fifties.” – David Rosenthal

“If cool jazz aimed for a light timbre, hard bop preferred a sound that was heavy, dark, impassioned. The tenor replaced the alto as the saxophone of choice, and drummers worked in an assertive style that drove the soloists.” – Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux

The Jazz Messengers became one of the most influential bands in the 1950s and 1960s, nurturing stellar soloists, incubating some of the music’s most important composers, always with an infectious groove. In the next hour, we will hear from several editions of the Messengers featuring Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Bobby Timmons, Freddie Hubbard and more.

Recordings.
The Norton Jazz Recordings – 4 Compact Discs for use with JAZZ by Scott DeVeaux and Gary Giddens. W.W. Norton 933796.
Miles Davis – Bags Groove. Prestige PRLP 187
A Night At Birdland with Art Blakey Quintet, Vol. 1. Blue Note BLP 5037
Clifford Brown – Max Roach Quintet – Study in Brown. EmArcy MG 36037
Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers. Blue Note BLP 5062
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Moanin’. Blue Note BLP 4003

Resources.
Giddens, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 12. Cool Jazz and Hard Bop
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Art Blakey – A Night at Birdland: Volumes 1 & 2
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 35. Clifford Brown and Max Roach: Clifford Brown and Max Roach (1954-1955)
Chapter 35. Horace Silver: Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1954-1955)
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 2. Hard Bop Begins
Chapter 3. The New Mainstream

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