Sunday, January 02, 2011

Art Blakey - Hard Bop (Mosaic Singles, 2008)

This was something of a forgotten album (perhaps because of the generic title?) recorded during drummer Art Blakey's brief tenure with Columbia Records. Cut with an interesting band including Bill Hardman on trumpet, Jackie McLean on alto saxophone, Sam Dockery on piano and Spanky De Brest on bass. But the album is aptly named as the the band swings through a long set of soulful and swinging hardbop, cut on December 12 & 13, 1956. Hardman and McLean make for a fascinating front line that is very enjoyable to listen to. Both men play in an intense driving style, over powerful rhythm that pushes the music inexorably forward. McLean was coming into his own during this period, still enthralled by bebop but developing the tart and acidic tone that he would use to create his Blue Note masterpieces in the coming decade. His well known composition "Little Melonae" gets a fine early reading, featuring a thoughtful and emotional solo. McLean and Hardman string together the blowing vehicle "Stanley's Stiff Chickens" to give everybody a chance to step out and wail. Blakey, as can be expected, is a whirlwind, playing with a supple grace that belies the power he brings to the music. Everything is taken at a fast and exciting pace except for the "Gershwin Medley" at the end, which feels a little tacked on as the group quickly references several of the composer's well known themes. Overall though, this was a blast to listen to for fans of straight ahead hard bop. Mosaic has done an excellent job restoring the music to a fine state, and the musicians were locked in and giving it their all. Hard Bop -

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