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5 Hard Bop Albums You Need to Listen To

One thing we always encourage our readers to do is listen to jazz. This is obviously important if you want to become a better jazz musician. At the end of the day, the best practicing you can do is turn on a record, sit back and listen with intention.

It’s also important to be listening to a wide range of jazz styles. Jazz has a rich evolving history, with many different branches to explore. You should be listening to jazz from the 1920’s-jazz that is coming out right now. That’s a full jazz education, and lots of great music to enjoy!

One style of jazz that is important to explore is Hard Bop. The term Hard Bop started being used by journalists and record companies in the mid-1950’s. It was a direct evolution from Bebop which was a huge departure from the danceable music of the swing era in the 30’s.

Hard Bop was mainly being developed on the east coast of the United States and it was a more aggressive, gospel and blues infused style than its counterpart genre, cool jazz, which was predominately being developed on the west coast during the same time period.

Here are 5 awesome Hard Bop albums you should check out. Be sure to pay attention to the headline artist and the musicians in the band. If you look up any of these musicians you will find many more albums to check out than just these.

Have any others to suggest to our jazz community? Leave them in the comments below.

Hank Mobley- Soul Station

This is one of saxophonist Hank Mobley’s most well know albums, and for a good reason! It was released in 1960 with a big line up of musicians: Wynton Kelley on piano, Art Blakey on drums, and Paul Chambers on bass. This is one of those albums you could listen to hundreds of time and still get something out of it. Be sure to check out “Remember”.

John Coltrane- Blue Train

This is one of saxophonist John Coltrane’s pivotal albums. It was released in 1958; a true Hard Bop album, whereas Coltrane’s next album, Giant Steps, would begin his radical innovations of jazz harmony and style. Heavy hitting line up of musicians: Curtis Fuller on trombone, Kenny Drew on piano, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Philly Joe Jones on drums, and Paul Chambers on bass.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers- Moanin’

Drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers is a very important group to be aware of in jazz. Blakey cycled a lot of important jazz musicians through that band. The Jazz Messengers is Hard Bop through and through. This record has Lee Morgan on trumpet, Jymie Merritt on bass, Benny Golson on tenor sax, and Bobby Timmons on piano.

Clifford Brown and Max Roach

This record by trumpeter Clifford Brown and Drummer Max roach was released in 1954. The New York Times said it was  “perhaps the definitive bop group until Mr. Brown’s fatal automobile accident in 1956”. This is a classic Hard Bop album to know. Personnel also includes Harold Land on tenor sax, Richie Powell on piano, and George Morrow on bass.

Horace Silver- Song For My Father

When talking about Hard Bop it’s important to mention pianist Horace Silver. This album is an iconic Horace album and has elements of latin groove influence. This one was released in 1965. Personnel also includes Carmell Jones and Blue Mitchell on trumpets, Teddy Smith and Gene Taylor on bass, Roy Brooks and Rodger Humphries on drums, Joe Henderson and Junior Cook on tenor sax.

There are so many more Hard Bop albums to listen to, but this is a good start. Have more to suggest? Leave them in the comments below.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."


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