Hard Bop: A Return To Blues And Gospel

Having invaded the market during the first half of the fifties, cool jazz tempted certain black artists with its sophistication and restraint. It spurred the next new wave-hard bop, which featured loud, full-voices instrumental sound and emotional performances. It was opportunity for musicians to return to the root Africans-Americans music, blues and gospel, but it was also their opportunity to renew their ties with black audiences, baffled by the avant-gardist  aspects of modern jazz.

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Benny Golson

The craze of rhythm and blues was as its peak, and suddenly everyone was talking about soul. Through this music the black community proudly displayed its cultural and spiritual differences, distinguishing itself from American puritanism by reconciling body and soul, dance and religious trances, sexual ecstasy and mystical heights. soul music of the black churches: it addressed the dancer and spoke of love.

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Art Blakey

Blues March

In coming back to the forms of the blues or the spiritual, jazz became 'churchy'. Certain titles were entirely unambiguous: The Sermon, The Preacher, Prayers Meeting. But there was also funk (a word derived from slang allusions to bodily odours). Close to physical pleasures, simple, direct, peremptory and blatantly joyous, hard bop, feeding off both these currents, was the expression of a proud black community, sure of the outcome of its struggles. To be convinced all you have to do is listen to Benny Golson's compositions for Art Blakey - such as 'Blues March', 'Moanin' or 'Along Came Betty' - or Horace Silvers's themes - 'Song for My Father' or 'Nica's Dream'.

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The Jazz Messengers

 Endowed with a vital energy, the drummer Art Blakey led the Jazz Messengers, the beacon group of hard bop. Blakey discovered many talents: Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Keith Jarrett and dozens of others- and, in effect, conducted their apprenticeships in hard bop.

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[left to right] Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, and Wayne Shorter during Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers' Mosaic Sessions' Englewood Cliffs NJ, October 2 1961 (photo by Francis Wolff)

  The indelible message was about the importance of the rhythm section. In early bop the rhythm section simply stated the chords and maintained the tempo., offering a stimulating contrast to the soloist.
In hard bop, however, its task wash to establish the atmosphere, according to repetitive formulas inspired by gospel and soul music. Rhythmic arrangements provoked dancers into swaying. As in rhythm and blues music, the hard bop beat relied strongly on syncopation in traditional four-beat measures. But even four-beat measures no longer had the exclusivity they had had since the twenties, as the three-part division became more and more frequently used: in fact, it is related to the very definition of swing, the essence of Africa-American music.

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Keith Jarret


1 comment:

  1. Keith Jarret..gotta love his playing man