R.I.P. Ray Bryant 1931 – 2011

After I’ve read Doug’s new article at Rifftides, his obituary on pianist Ray Bryant, I faintly remembered that I have archived an old article from my former blog “Old & New Swingin’ Dreams”.

Here it is, enhanced with a fantastic track from the LP “The Greatest Trumpet Of Them All” with the Dizzy Gillespie Octet, featuring brand new compositions, and arrangements, and last but not least Mr. Ray Bryant, and his brother Tommy on piano, and bass; furthermore we have Benny Golson on tenorsax, Gigi Gryce on alto, Henry Coker on trombone, Pee-Wee Moore on baritone sax & Charlie Persip on drums.

The whole smoking affair was recorded in NYC, on December 17, 1957.

Take this track as a tribute to one of jazz’s most reliable accompanists, the inspiring piano virtuoso Ray Bryant. — Notice how he fills the little spaces between the various ensemble passages.

That’s first class comping!

This outstanding number is also meant as a boppin’ preface to Doug Ramsey’s article further below:


Now, what was that? “Hard Bop”, “Jazz à la Indians in Hollywood”, err, “Native Americans”, of course! — Sorry, I’m not exactly the PC kind of guy, I got a Mac 😉

Correspondence: Hard Bop — From Rifftides
by Doug Ramsey

Rifftidesreader and occasional correspondent Red Colm O’Sullivan writes from Ireland (where else, with a name like that?):

And here’s another frequently used term that has no meaning whatsoever: “Hard Bop”. I have NO IDEA what that MEANS (as opposed to supposed to mean).

That brought to mind something I wrote for a 2000 compilation CD on the Savoy label. The two-disc album was called The Birth of Hard Bop. It was made up of music recorded in 1956 by groups under the leadership of Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan and Hank Mobley. Among the players are Horace Silver, Kenny Clarke, Arthur Taylor, Barry Harris, Doug Watkins and three people who could by no stretch be considered hard boppers — Hank Jones, Ronnie Ball and John LaPorta. The essay begins:

The urge to put ideas in boxes will not be denied. Accordingly, one day in the early 1950s someone, presumably a critic, dreamed up a box called “hard bop.” The inventor no doubt intended the term to be a synonym for “soul” and “funk.” He or she may also have meant it to distinguish jazz played primarily by black people on the East Coast from jazz played primarily by white people on the West Coast. It seemed important to critics in those days to make that distinction. To some, it still seems important. At any rate, “hard bop” came to signify jazz that had rhythmic drive, leaned on blues harmonies, drew inspiration from church gospel music and was hot, not cool.

Unfortunately for box theory, try as you will to contain music, it flows around, into and out of boxes. Strict hard bop constructionists cannot force this album’s lyrical “I Married An Angel” into the category with any greater justification than they can jawbone Clifford Brown’s “Daahoud” (the Pacific Jazz version) into the shape of West Coast Jazz. Nearly half a century later, the music in this collection swings on in the category that matters most: the one labeled “Good.”

The notes then discuss the musicians and the 21 tracks on the CDs.

At the end, the reissue’s producer, Orrin Keepnews, jumps in with a postscript that reads, in part:

…So it is quite possible that there never really was a musical style that could properly be described as “hard bop.” However as Doug’s not quite tongue-in-cheek essay reminds us, there was a powerful music developing in the mid-fifties. I lived and worked in the New York area during that time span, so I was thoroughly immersed in it throughout its early development. I know that I continue to think of this music as “hard bop” whenever I think back on it (which is often), and when I heard it still being played by many of today’s best young jazz people, which is also quite frequently.
…I join Doug Ramsey in not giving a damn about the legitimacy of the terminology, because what really matters is that the music itself was among the most legitimate and exciting jazz ever created. – O.K.

By the way, since Keepnews is involved in this post, if you think that jazz critics and writers are a dour, humorless bunch, here is irrefutable evidence otherwise.

Ramsey, Keepnews, Dan Morgenstern

This was several years ago, but we’re still laughing.

Blog owner’s note: To visit the original source, please click HERE.

— Bruno Leicht’s thoughts on “Hard Bop” and other jazz labels —

As a jazz musician I personally was never satisfied with some ‘labels’ put on my favorite music. And so I invented my own expressions.

For cool jazz I say Quiet Jazz. The so called ‘cool’ jazz was in fact very emotional, though mostly paired with strong intellectuality.

I use the term Free Style for everything which has been recorded after Ornette Coleman’s album Free Jazz.

For hard bop I would rather use the delineative term Driving Jazz, which would much clearer illustrate the playing of a Clifford Brown, an Art Blakey, or a Sonny Rollins. — Playing ‘hard’ is not exactly what they actually did in that certain period of time, the mid-1950’s to the early 1960’s.

They only drove ‘harder’ (here is it again. Sh..!) on the edge of the beat. Let’s say, they phrased rhythmically more precise than the vintage boppers, folks like Kenny Clarke, Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, or Howard McGhee.

And the exposed flatted fifths, or other sported extremes, and eccentricities of be bop became more integrated in the improvised lines, and written compositions. (By the way: would Dexter Gordon belong rather to be bop, or to hard bop, or to where at all?).

But as we all know, most jazz musicians preferred to call it just *music* anyway. And that’s what it is, after all.

Labels are only made for selling or for getting some chronology for the folks who don’t have any idea of what we’re talking about. — And to be honest, and perhaps a bit arrogant:

Ask the people on the street, if they know anything about music at all.

For them even the label ‘classical’, which is commonly used for any kind of music with a bunch of strings prior to 1900, for them even that very word would mean only the likes of André Rien … ehm, Rieu of course.

Sorry folks, but that’s how it is.

Read more here: We called it music

Or take that clever (or desperate?) idea for the purpose of selling both, east and west coast jazz:

Best Coast Jazz

Clifford Brown - Best Coast Jazz

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