Hard Bop

Around the same time that Cool Jazz took hold on the West Coast, jazz musicians from Detroit, Philadelphia and New York began to embrace a heavier, hard-on-the-beat form of Bebop called Hard Bop. While it closely resembled traditional Bebop in its aggressiveness and technical demands, the Hard Bop of the 1950s and ‘60s relied less on standard song forms and placed more importance on blues elements and rhythmic drive. Soloing chops, or improvisatory skill, coupled with a strong grasp of harmony remained of primary importance to horn players; in the rhythm section, drums became more involved and piano and bass achieved a more fluid, funkier feel.

In 1955, drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver formed the Jazz Messengers, the quintessential Hard Bop group. An ever-evolving septet that lasted well into the 1980s, the Jazz Messengers produced many of the genre’s top players, like saxophonists Hank Mobley, Wayne Shorter, Johnny Griffin and Branford Marsalis, and trumpeters Donald Byrd, Woody Shaw, Wynton Marsalis and Lee Morgan. One of the biggest jazz hits of all time, Morgan’s 1963 tune “The Sidewinder,” was performed in a definite, though somewhat simplified, Hard Bop style.

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