Friday, November 30, 2007

Jazz 101: Hard Bop

Of all the styles of jazz, Kelly Rossum tells us in our weekly class at MacPhail, hard bop is the least popular with the public and the most popular among musicians. It exists for the pleasure of musicians and hardcore aficionados. I don't consider myself hardcore (enthusiastic, curious, even avid, yes; hardcore, no), but I do love hard bop, though I didn't know until recently that much of the jazz I enjoy falls into that category. So does much of the standard jazz repertoire. What does "hard bop" mean? To Kelly and many other jazz musicians, it simply means "jazz."

Clifford Brown's "I'll Remember April," with the great Max Roach on drums. A sparse collection of notes flowers into something intricate, complex, amazing. ("This further demonstrates the unsurmountable problem of teaching jazz," Kelly says, "which, in hard bop, further distances itself from other forms of music.") The role of the drummer evolves from timekeeper to active participant; today the drummer is on equal footing with the other members of a jazz group, and everyone is responsible for keeping time. Horace Silver's "Song for My Father" (I must have listened to that as often as Kind of Blue), with its Latin beat. Lee Morgan's "Sidewinder." Art Blakey, Ahmad Jamal, Elvin Jones, Roy Haynes, Sonny Rollins, Miles Davis, Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, Charles Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Roy Hargrove, Randy Weston, Joe Lovano, Christian McBride, and on and on...hard boppers.

In hard bop, the form is law, but that will change when free jazz comes along.

Photo: Clifford Brown.

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