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Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965

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It's nineteen fifty-something, in a dark, cramped, smoke-filled room. Everyone's wearing black. And on-stage a tenor is blowing his heart out, a searching, jagged saxophone journey played out against a moody, walking bass and the swish of a drummer's brushes. To a great many listeners--from African American aficionados of the period to a whole new group of fans today--this It's nineteen fifty-something, in a dark, cramped, smoke-filled room. Everyone's wearing black. And on-stage a tenor is blowing his heart out, a searching, jagged saxophone journey played out against a moody, walking bass and the swish of a drummer's brushes. To a great many listeners--from African American aficionados of the period to a whole new group of fans today--this is the very embodiment of jazz. It is also quintessential hard bop. In this, the first thorough study of the subject, jazz expert and enthusiast David H. Rosenthal vividly examines the roots, traditions, explorations and permutations, personalities and recordings of a climactic period in jazz history. Beginning with hard bop's origins as an amalgam of bebop and R&B, Rosenthal narrates the growth of a movement that embraced the heavy beat and bluesy phrasing of such popular artists as Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley; the stark, astringent, tormented music of saxophonists Jackie McLean and Tina Brooks; the gentler, more lyrical contributions of trumpeter Art Farmer, pianists Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, composers Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce; and such consciously experimental and truly one-of-a-kind players and composers as Andrew Hill, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus. Hard bop welcomed all influences--whether Gospel, the blues, Latin rhythms, or Debussy and Ravel--into its astonishingly creative, hard-swinging orbit. Although its emphasis on expression and downright "badness" over technical virtuosity was unappreciated by critics, hard bop was the music of black neighborhoods and the last jazz movement to attract the most talented young black musicians. Fortunately, records were there to catch it all. The years between 1955 and 1965 are unrivaled in jazz history for the number of milestones on vinyl. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um, Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, Horace Silver's Further Explorations--Rosenthal gives a perceptive cut-by-cut analysis of these and other jazz masterpieces, supplying an essential discography as well. For knowledgeable jazz-lovers and novices alike, Hard Bop is a lively, multi-dimensional, much-needed examination of the artists, the milieus, and above all the sounds of one of America's great musical epochs.


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It's nineteen fifty-something, in a dark, cramped, smoke-filled room. Everyone's wearing black. And on-stage a tenor is blowing his heart out, a searching, jagged saxophone journey played out against a moody, walking bass and the swish of a drummer's brushes. To a great many listeners--from African American aficionados of the period to a whole new group of fans today--this It's nineteen fifty-something, in a dark, cramped, smoke-filled room. Everyone's wearing black. And on-stage a tenor is blowing his heart out, a searching, jagged saxophone journey played out against a moody, walking bass and the swish of a drummer's brushes. To a great many listeners--from African American aficionados of the period to a whole new group of fans today--this is the very embodiment of jazz. It is also quintessential hard bop. In this, the first thorough study of the subject, jazz expert and enthusiast David H. Rosenthal vividly examines the roots, traditions, explorations and permutations, personalities and recordings of a climactic period in jazz history. Beginning with hard bop's origins as an amalgam of bebop and R&B, Rosenthal narrates the growth of a movement that embraced the heavy beat and bluesy phrasing of such popular artists as Horace Silver and Cannonball Adderley; the stark, astringent, tormented music of saxophonists Jackie McLean and Tina Brooks; the gentler, more lyrical contributions of trumpeter Art Farmer, pianists Hank Jones and Tommy Flanagan, composers Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce; and such consciously experimental and truly one-of-a-kind players and composers as Andrew Hill, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, and Charles Mingus. Hard bop welcomed all influences--whether Gospel, the blues, Latin rhythms, or Debussy and Ravel--into its astonishingly creative, hard-swinging orbit. Although its emphasis on expression and downright "badness" over technical virtuosity was unappreciated by critics, hard bop was the music of black neighborhoods and the last jazz movement to attract the most talented young black musicians. Fortunately, records were there to catch it all. The years between 1955 and 1965 are unrivaled in jazz history for the number of milestones on vinyl. Miles Davis's Kind of Blue, Charles Mingus's Mingus Ah Um, Thelonious Monk's Brilliant Corners, Horace Silver's Further Explorations--Rosenthal gives a perceptive cut-by-cut analysis of these and other jazz masterpieces, supplying an essential discography as well. For knowledgeable jazz-lovers and novices alike, Hard Bop is a lively, multi-dimensional, much-needed examination of the artists, the milieus, and above all the sounds of one of America's great musical epochs.

30 review for Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music 1955-1965

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    I read this years ago and am reviewing strictly on memory. Hard Bop is a book about a type of music which isn't my favorite. (I find that I have to work to listen past the hard bop format in order to appreciate the individuality of the musicians.) Having said that, David Rosenthal wrote a book that got me to listen to some music I might not have listened to, and to listen more closely when I did listen. I thank him for that. Mr. Rosenthal also introduced me to Harvey Pekar's American Splendor wit I read this years ago and am reviewing strictly on memory. Hard Bop is a book about a type of music which isn't my favorite. (I find that I have to work to listen past the hard bop format in order to appreciate the individuality of the musicians.) Having said that, David Rosenthal wrote a book that got me to listen to some music I might not have listened to, and to listen more closely when I did listen. I thank him for that. Mr. Rosenthal also introduced me to Harvey Pekar's American Splendor with his review of the first anthology in The N.Y. Times. He deserves my thanks for that too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    J.M. Hushour

    Despite the inevitable and inescapable limitations that the sheer scale of the project has built-in, Hard Bop is a pretty damn awesome exercise in at least partially attaining its ambitions: a history of, yes, hard bop. What is that, you might ask? Basically anything issued on Blue Note records between the above years. How else can we qualify it? Does jazz invoke for you smoke, dimness, addiction, rebellion, inherent angst, and fucking awesome wailing and blowing? That's probably hard bop then. Despite the inevitable and inescapable limitations that the sheer scale of the project has built-in, Hard Bop is a pretty damn awesome exercise in at least partially attaining its ambitions: a history of, yes, hard bop. What is that, you might ask? Basically anything issued on Blue Note records between the above years. How else can we qualify it? Does jazz invoke for you smoke, dimness, addiction, rebellion, inherent angst, and fucking awesome wailing and blowing? That's probably hard bop then. The lost-forever expanse between bop/swing and the freaky-deaky explorations of free jazz, hard bop was a multitudinous, mutinous thing. Formulated by an expanse of mostly black musicians who were born in the first quarter of the 20th century and who drew on gospel, soul, and blues traditions AND who were pissed off at the world, this kind of jazz can't be without attraction. Rosenthal was a encyclopedic and well-versed jazz fan and his enthusiasm and giddiness shines throughout. The only drawback is what I mentioned at the outset: there's so many aspects to cover, so many musicians to discuss that the book can't help but be minimally inadequate. But as a starter, it's just great.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Geo

    Better to read while auditing the music material that the book refers to. Very interesting when it comes to unknown hard bop performer personal life stories.

  4. 4 out of 5

    David Rullo

    While in college I walked into a BD Dalton's located on Forbes Ave. in Pittsburgh looking for a book about jazz. The mainstream book store had only a small selection of music books and an even smaller choice of jazz books. I knew very little about jazz at the time and this had "bop" in the title so I picked it up. To my surprise, it had very little to do with be-bop. I read it but still new to the genre didn't recognize most of the names. I recently decided to reread it now that I am much more f While in college I walked into a BD Dalton's located on Forbes Ave. in Pittsburgh looking for a book about jazz. The mainstream book store had only a small selection of music books and an even smaller choice of jazz books. I knew very little about jazz at the time and this had "bop" in the title so I picked it up. To my surprise, it had very little to do with be-bop. I read it but still new to the genre didn't recognize most of the names. I recently decided to reread it now that I am much more familiar with the genre. Rosenthal's writing is stiff and stilted at times, a bit too academic for my liking, but his love of the subgenre overcomes the criticism. He is a true student of the discipline and he has written a good primer. Each artist gets no more than three or four pages, so don't expect an expansive collection. The real criticism is that Rosenthal is a fan of hard bop, not necessarily jazz. Yes, he knows and understands music but he expressed it in the way a music teacher does discussing rock or jazz as opposed to classical music. A decent but not great read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    This was an excellent history of jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. I really liked the way the author wrote this history. He interspersed older jazz history and overviews of the jazz scene with detailed descriptions of specific players and specific sessions. He did not focus on the traditional subjects entirely, but on both well-known and not so well known artists and albums. I appreciated the level of detail as well as the variety of artists covered. I also liked the way the author wrote his music re This was an excellent history of jazz of the 1950s and 1960s. I really liked the way the author wrote this history. He interspersed older jazz history and overviews of the jazz scene with detailed descriptions of specific players and specific sessions. He did not focus on the traditional subjects entirely, but on both well-known and not so well known artists and albums. I appreciated the level of detail as well as the variety of artists covered. I also liked the way the author wrote his music reviews. They brought music to life, especially the sessions and albums that I hadn't previously heard.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Bobby

    If you love hard bop jazz (see Blue Note releases from 1955-1965) this will give you an excellent microcosm musical history.

  7. 5 out of 5

    JDK1962

    Liked it for the historical aspects--some good in-depth discussion of some lesser known players--less so for the critical aspects. I wasn't sure what critical point(s) he was trying to make: he makes the case that hard bop ended in the early 60s (in terms of forward progress and players being able to make a living off it), then describes current players playing in the style (Wynton Marsalis, etc.) but not really advancing it, seems to criticize blacks for abandoning it (and jazz in general) for Liked it for the historical aspects--some good in-depth discussion of some lesser known players--less so for the critical aspects. I wasn't sure what critical point(s) he was trying to make: he makes the case that hard bop ended in the early 60s (in terms of forward progress and players being able to make a living off it), then describes current players playing in the style (Wynton Marsalis, etc.) but not really advancing it, seems to criticize blacks for abandoning it (and jazz in general) for rap, and whites for reviving it out of second-hand nostalgia.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Allen Martin

    Although I enjoyed the book (as I enjoy hard bop from the late 50s through early 60s) this was more of a history book and less of a “how to book” as to what hard bop is. But the spotlight shines on many different musicians, both validating my current library as well as giving me a long list of performers to uncover in the future

  9. 4 out of 5

    - -

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Puts blackness in the foreground as a thread holding together the evolutions of 55-65. Plenty of social history - place, society and attitude of non musicians become first order participants in the music, not just the preserve of musicians. Works through groups of musicians, attitudes and styles before reporting on the stutter into free and the erosion of soul, funk and rock.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Thomas

    The author does a great job of detailing what happened in the transition from Bebop to Hard Bop. Covering people, attitudes, politics, attitudes, the NYC artists, drugs, musicians, etc. A complete understanding results from a read. Covers all the key players from Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, etc. A great book about some of the best music ever played! One problem: In the otherwise brilliant final chapter, the author states that virtually all the greatest jazz musicians are/were black. Ma The author does a great job of detailing what happened in the transition from Bebop to Hard Bop. Covering people, attitudes, politics, attitudes, the NYC artists, drugs, musicians, etc. A complete understanding results from a read. Covers all the key players from Lee Morgan, Horace Silver, Art Blakey, etc. A great book about some of the best music ever played! One problem: In the otherwise brilliant final chapter, the author states that virtually all the greatest jazz musicians are/were black. Maybe Im just... white... but it bugs me when people don't acknowledge people like Django Reinhardt, Barney Kessel, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, etc. All Caucasian, and all having made crucially important contributions to the history of jazz. Yes, jazz has been primarily black, but to say "virtually all" made the author's work a hair less important/correct/all-encompassing... Unfortunate. An otherwise wonderful book!

  11. 5 out of 5

    Peter Campbell

    A terrific and erudite book on this important sub-genre of jazz. I learned a great deal from it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Doug

    Very good overview of the personnel and the music of the hard bop era; Rosenthal knows how to write about jazz: technically versed and appreciative of its soul.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Don

    good

  14. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Phillips

  15. 4 out of 5

    Corey Kendrick

  16. 4 out of 5

    gdg

  17. 5 out of 5

    David

  18. 5 out of 5

    John Spiller

  19. 5 out of 5

    Peter Patnaik

  20. 5 out of 5

    Javier

  21. 4 out of 5

    Brent

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mike Harnisch

  23. 5 out of 5

    Lauri Hälinen

  24. 5 out of 5

    C B

  25. 5 out of 5

    StevenF

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Given

  27. 5 out of 5

    Ken

  28. 4 out of 5

    Hvg

  29. 4 out of 5

    Chi Chi

  30. 5 out of 5

    Chris Gilde

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