History of Jazz: Part 6
The strains of blues, gospel, and R&B that figured in the music of many hard bop musicians led to the development of soul jazz, which eventually led to the development of fusion and electric experiments in jazz.
There were developments such as the organ/tenor sax combo, which brought bluesy Hammond B-3 and the open sounds of a variety of hard-driving R&B tenor sax players. Bebop had set jazz and R&B on divergent paths, and cool jazz further solidified jazz’s status as art music, but hard bop seemed designed to reconcile the two and to incorporate newly-developing elements of black music into the jazz genre.
Hard Bop and The Jazz Messengers
Hard bop truly began with a series of recordings made and released in 1954. Art Blakey led a group that played at Birdland and featured pianist Horace Silver, bassist Curley Russell, trumpet player Clifford Brown, and saxophonist Lou Donaldson. The two-volume recording A Night at Birdland With the Art Blakey Quintet was groundbreaking and pointed to future developments.
That same year Miles Davis, who had conquered his heroin addiction, recorded the album Walkin’ for Prestige with an all-star group that included Silver, Kenny Clarke, Percy Heath, J.J. Johnson, and Lucky Thompson. The track “Walkin’” heralded the arrival of a new paradigm in jazz with its relaxed tempo and straightforward, bluesy melody. Davis’s soloing, emphasizing the use of space, was particularly effective in this setting, and the album, along with subsequent live performances, heralded Miles’s comeback. It is interesting to note that Miles was important in the development of the hard bop sound and sensibility, which stood in direct opposition to the ethos of the cool sound that Miles had also pioneered.
Blakey and Silver made another recording at the end of 1954 entitled Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers. The album included bassist Doug Watkins, trumpet player Kenny Dorham, and tenor sax player Hank Mobley, and featured the distinctive, simple, blues-based melodies that would become Silver’s calling card as well as the aggressive rhythms that became associated with Blakey.
Clifford Brown, who had recorded several Blue Note albums including the live set with Blakey, joined drummer Max Roach on Mercury Records’ Emarcy label to form the Clifford Brown/Max Roach Quintet, which featured Richie Powell on piano, George Morrow on bass, and Harold Land, a West Coast tenor saxophonist who was a top-notch bebop player. This band also laid down elements of what came to be considered the hard bop style, with Sonny Rollins replacing Land near the time of the group’s final recordings. Unfortunately, Brown was killed in a car crash in June of 1956.
Meantime, Blakey began to hatch The Jazz Messengers, an ongoing combo that became a breeding ground for the best jazz talent from the mid-fifties right into the 1980s.
Blakey kept the name Jazz Messengers when the original group went in different directions. Subsequent versions included Jackie McLean, Bill Hardman, and Donald Byrd (1956), Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt (1958). It was this 1958 version of the band that recorded the classic album Moanin’, with Timmons coming to the fore as a composer and arranger. The tune “Moanin’” follows a typical blues pattern and demonstrates clearly that hard bop was about a certain melodic simplicity even though soloists still used this basic backdrop as a base for virtuosic solo adventures. The interplay between Lee Morgan and Benny Golson also provided a strong blueprint for later editions of the band.
Golson was later replaced by Wayne Shorter, who became the band’s musical director and composed numerous songs for the group. His playing also fit well with the group’s overall dynamic, and this version of the Messengers distinguished itself on a variety of recordings including The Big Beat and A Night In Tunisia. When Morgan left, Freddie Hubbard was brought in to fill the trumpet chair, and other alumni of this band include pianist Cedar Walton and trombonist Curtis Fuller. Shorter eventually left to join the “Second Great Quintet” of Miles Davis, which included Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams. That band further expanded the reaches of small group jazz and carried Miles all the way to his first experiments with electronic instruments and rock beats.
Meanwhile Horace Silver, a graduate of the first Jazz Messengers sessions, was continuing to pursue a path that led through the blues, R&B, and gospel. Compositions like “Sister Sadie” demonstrated his compositional aesthetic, and he recorded a string of albums that explore similar areas, including Song For My Father and The Jody Grind.
Other musicians were also exploring some of the same thematic components and producing music that was as much a part of popular black music of the ‘60s as the music of leading R&B and soul recording artists of the day.
These included guitarist Wes Montgomery, whose use of unison octaves became a trademark sound, organist Jimmy Smith, who was influenced by blues organists and whose funky sound became an influence in the burgeoning acid jazz movement of the 1980s, and saxophonist Julian “Cannonball” Adderley, who fused the exquisite harmonic conception of Charlie Parker with the funky blues-based sensibilities of artists like Ray Charles. The music of these artists was sometimes called “soul jazz” because of its mixture of jazz’s improvisation and harmonic conception with the blues-based melodies of R&B.
Smith proved to be a major inspiration to later jazz organists, including Jack McDuff, Jimmy McGriff, and Richard “Groove” Holmes. Many jazz purists deride the Hammond B-3 players, judging them to be playing blues or soul music and outside the parameters of jazz, but there’s no doubt that these organists were bona fide jazz players.
McDuff led a quartet with tenor sax player Red Holloway, drummer Joe Dukes, and a very young guitarist named George Benson, a group which absolutely sizzled. Organist Jimmy “Hammond” Smith and saxophonist Houston Person played together in one of the premier organ/tenor bands of the 1960s and ‘70s; Person later hooked up with Richard “Groove” Holmes as well. Saxophonist Illinois Jacquet worked with organists Milt Buckner and Wild Bill Davis, and Jimmy McGriff continued to be a force as well.
Soul jazz may be seen as a further outgrowth of hard bop, but it should be noted that many hard bop players remained very clearly within the confines of mainstream jazz even while mining components of blues and R&B. Others, like Jackie McLean, Dexter Gordon, and Sonny Rollins, to name but three, were influenced by hard bop but continued to mine the more harmonically complex areas of bebop itself.