Hardbop

August 22, 2007

Nicolai Foss

“Hardbop” is the term for the funky and soulful — and in some ways simplified — offspring of bebop that crystallized in the mid-1950, and is epitomized by the combos led by Horace Silver and Art Blakey. Grant Green, Kenny Burrell, Wes Montgomery, and George Benson may be thought of as hard bop guitarists.

At the moment, I am reading the late David Rosenthal’s excellent Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965 . It is scholarly, without being pedantic. Among other things Rosenthal explains how hard bop became formulaic and predictable and had basically run out of steam at the time the book ends, the exact same time when listeners migrated en masse to rock, rhythm’n blues, etc.

Wes Montgomery’s “commercialism” which began ca. 1965 is entirely understandable in this light; the hard bop scene (and perhaps the whole jazz scene) was simply collapsing, and “crossing-over” may simply have been a survival strategy (particularly for somebody with a large family, as was the case with Wes). Grant Green also tried to pursue such a strategy, but with much less success. The ultimate cross-over guitarist is, of course, George Benson, but his switch occurred much later. I think that what Rosenthal says of the hard bop movement fundamentally exhausting its potential and growing tired may also be said of particularly Green’s playing, at least to a certain extent. His stuff from about the mid-1960s doesn’t seem to me to have the freshness of the Green work from the beginning of the 1960s.

Here is nice site dedicated to hard bop musicians. Includes brief bios on Green, Benson, Burrell and Montgomery.

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One Response to “Hardbop”


  1. Don’t forget Pat Martino, only a year younger than Benson. especially his parsing of the blues and standards in the early ’60s with Willis Jackson, his hard driving solos on Don Patterson’s albums (I’m thinking right now of “Holiday Soul” (1965), unfortunately not yet out on CD), and of course his initial album for Prestige as a leader, “El Hombre” (1967, all right, I’m pushing the hard-bop chonological boundary there).

    Glad to discover this blog.


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