Styles & Forms | Hard Bop | Jazz

Hard bop evolved out of bebop during the early 1950s but its rhythms were more driving and syncopated. Hard bop also tended to have a more full-bodied sound, a bluesy feel with darker textures and shorter improvised lines, and its chord progressions were usually composed rather than borrowed from popular tunes.

Although Miles Davis made an early foray into hard bop with Walkin (1953), the style did not become established until drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver joined forces later that year. They played with the trademark hard-driving grooves and gospel-inspired phrasings that would later be associated with the genre.

The Fathers Of Hard Bop

Many listeners underestimate the impact Horace Silver had on contemporary mainstream jazz: the hard bop style he and Art Blakey developed in the 1950s is still one of the dominant forms of the genre. Silver studied piano at school in Connecticut, where he formed a trio for local gigs. They impressed tenor saxophonist Stan Getz, who immediately hired them and brought them over to New York in 1950. Silver worked with Getz for a year there and also began to play with other top jazzers, including the saxophonists Coleman Hawkins and Lester Young. In 1953 he joined forces with Art Blakey to form a band under their joint leadership. Their first album, Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers (1955), proved to be a milestone in the development of hard bop, with some of the tunes Silver penned for the recording later becoming jazz standards. Silver left the band in 1956 to record a series of albums that showcased his original, funky piano style. His recordings throughout the ensuing five decades have featured many jazz notables, including the trumpeters Donald Byrd, Art Farmer and Randy Brecker, as well as the saxophonists Hank Mobley and Michael Brecker.

Art Blakey began as a pianist before he switched to the drums in the 1940s. He drummed with Mary Lou Williams, Fletcher Henderson’s Swing Band and Billy Eckstine’s band before forming the original Jazz Messengers in 1955. The band varied in size, and there were countless personnel changes over the next 40 years (a list of the band’s alumni is basically a who’s who of mainstream jazz from the 1950s onwards), but they always delivered top-notch jazz, powered by Blakey’s driving drums. His accompaniment style was relentless, and even the best players in his bands had to be on their toes to keep up with him. He was never really the jazz world’s most subtle or versatile drummer, but what he played, he played exceedingly well and with spirit, until his death in 1990.

Other Hard Bop Players

Max Roach was another hugely influential bebop and hard bop drummer. He and Kenny Clarke were the first drummers to spell out the pulse of a groove with the ride cymbal to get a lighter texture. This gave them more freedom to explore their drum kits, and to drop random...

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Source: The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music, general editor Paul Du Noyer


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