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Why does LeRoi Jones (aka Amiri Baraka) hate Hard bop?

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... after I finish Cohen's tomb, Ellington's America.

Ummm.... "tome", not "tomb" is what you meant, right?

"Tomb" seems about right.

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

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Am I "ready to accept the possibility..."?!?! LOL

Well, it's not a joke - depending on what you wanted out of music (and life) Hard bop by 1961 or so was either a comfortable expression where you good go to feel good, or a hopeless dead end where the inevitable outcome was just playing the same thing, no matter how many twists you could put on it. Whichever one suits you best is the "truth" for you. There's no empirical proof that one is true and the other not.

And also, Hard Bop in 1965 as a totally different social proposition than it was in 1955. In between, a lot of things happened.

If you're looking for justification of your own tastes, don't bother. They're not needed. Nor is a "defense" of Hard Bop. But not needing a defense is not the same as being immune to valid criticism and challenges, unless questioning is perceived to be the same as attacking.

And if you're looking for provable answers to linear questions, stay away from jazz and work algebra problems instead! :g

Edited by JSngry

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

well put.

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

well put.

"During its prime" is the operative phrase here. During their prime, iambic pentameter, royal masques and epic poetry were pretty cool too. But art forms evolve, and artists move on. Unfortunately, not so with the school of hard bop. Miles knew he had to, Coltrane knew he had to, Ornette knew it too. However, lesser luminaries continue to flog this musical form decade after decade after decade, long after its artistic life has fled.

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

But couldn't that be said about ANY style of music (jazz style, in particular) so does this statement advance this "debate"? ;)

Baraka/Jones' comments left me wondering ...

I've always loved bebop (and with the listener's benefit of hindsight I can see the evolutionary line between swing and bebop) but somehow can take only moderate doses of hard bop at a time and feel quite comfortable with not going nearly as deeply into hard bop as I have explored bebop through the years.

To me bebop always pushed straight ahead whereas hard bop rather seemed to go sideways instead of ahead.

While I definitely am no music scholar but consider myself just a "listener" (and do not care about Free Jazz), I wonder if maybe what he says would be an explanation of this imaginary difference between "going straight ahead" vs "going sideways" (sorry, cannot express it any other way in a nutshell).

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

well put.

"During its prime" is the operative phrase here. During their prime, iambic pentameter, royal masques and epic poetry were pretty cool too. But art forms evolve, and artists move on. Unfortunately, not so with the school of hard bop. Miles knew he had to, Coltrane knew he had to, Ornette knew it too. However, lesser luminaries continue to flog this musical form decade after decade after decade, long after its artistic life has fled.

Right but Baraka was writing against hard bop when it was arguably either still in its prime or very nearly past its prime. Blues People was written in 1963, not 1993. I agree that hard bop played itself out by the mid-1960s, but that doesn't explain the animosity Baraka felt for it in 1963. During its prime hard bop produced a lot of repetitive music, but also a lot of wonderful music. Just as free jazz produced some wonderful music in its time, a lot of uninspired music, and has arguably been flogging itself to death for decade after decade after decade as well.

There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

But couldn't that be said about ANY style of music (jazz style, in particular) so does this statement advance this "debate"? ;)

Well if you wanted to be extremely reductionist and group all of jazz into various sub-genres, I would say hard bop has been one of the most artistically successful areas in jazz history. I'd take it over all the genres of music from before the Second World War, over bebop (which had become repetitive within a handful of years of its first recordings) and fusion. I'd probably take free jazz over hard bop, but those would probably be my top two.

Again, this is all personal opinion but I spend way more time listening to hard bop records than I do to swing records or early jazz records.

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The term "hard bop" has always bothered me (as do all sub-genre classifications in music) because it's too limiting, trying to put an umbrella term over countless artists over a decade or so. It makes it appear on the surface that the artists usually associated with hard bop could do nothing else and never evolved. I think that's crap.

Take Horace Silver. Compare the "Horace Silver & The Jazz Messengers" album with something later like "The Cape Verdean Blues" and it's NOT the same thing, Horace had evolved, younger players came in, time passes and it's a different animal.

But those "genre-addicted" folk have a fix for something like that, instead of acknowledging that maybe styles have changed, they just vary up the wording into "Post-bop", in other words: "We have no idea what to call this and it doesn't fall into our very narrow view of what hard bop is...so I guess that scene is over completely, yet this new music isn't inspiring me to come up with a new title...so we'll just add post to the beginning."

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I agree that hard bop played itself out by the mid-1960s, but that doesn't explain the animosity Baraka felt for it in 1963.

Sure it does.

In 1963, Cecil & Ornette had already been around long enough to have made an impact past being "novelties", Albert Ayler's name was beginning to get out there (and his music heard a little), Trane & Elvin were really beginning to get in gear, lots of things that had been fermenting were starting to come to the surface, none of which had too much to do with putting on a suit & tie, running the changes with a "bluesy" virtuosity, and saying "We sincerely hope you do enjoy".

And that's just in the music...

You gotta remember, Baraka was a "radical", musically and socially. His patience for the status quo was next to nil, and having real, viable options at hand just made it more so.

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http://www.amazon.com/Digging-Afro-American-American-Classical-Diaspora/dp/product-description/0520265823/

Baraka is probably coming from the "bop was the revolution, Hard Bop the accommodation that was willing to end the revolution before full victory had been won" POV.

Can't say that he's wrong about that, nor can I say that there were some very pleasant and meaninful accomodations made along the way. The truth is that most people are more prone to being accomodationalists than they are revolutionaries. Enjoy your revoltuions when you have them, becasue they won't last forever.

You should read the whole book, though, from the beginning. It's important, and needs to be seriously considered.

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Well if you wanted to be extremely reductionist and group all of jazz into various sub-genres, I would say hard bop has been one of the most artistically successful areas in jazz history. I'd take it over all the genres of music from before the Second World War, over bebop (which had become repetitive within a handful of years of its first recordings) and fusion. I'd probably take free jazz over hard bop, but those would probably be my top two.

Again, this is all personal opinion but I spend way more time listening to hard bop records than I do to swing records or early jazz records.

Look at it closely .. I am not being any more reductionist than you are. In your above statement as well as in the one preceding it, you subdivide "all of jazz into various sub-genres" yourself. Which is a statement of fact because there ARE different styles of jazz so nothing wrong about that, no matter who makes that statement. And good and not so good jazz was made in all styles through the histroy of jazz.

As for hard bop being the artistically most successful style of jazz, that would be a matter of personal preferences and can indeed be contested but depends on what criteria you would consider essential for "artistic success". ANY style preceding hard bop can make that claim depending on whether you are willing to accept to see each style of jazz on the terms of its time and depending on whether you value the groundwork or later embellishments higher ;). It may be argued that most hard boppers by and large were technically more proficient than most 20s jazzmen (though in order to prove that they would have had to show they were able to play 20s jazz just as well as or in fact even better than 20s jazzmen, assuming this earlier jazz is technically and artistically more simple ;)) and they may have accomplished musically more advanced feats than 20s and 30s jazzmen, but does this alone make them "artistically more successful"? Not by a long shot if one is willing to judge music on the terms of the time the music was actually made FIRST.

So IMHO it again boils down to personal preferences and therefore is pointless to try to debate.

And let's face it - while I would not dare to judge what made Jones/Baraka write what he did in 1963, by that year hard bop had already become an also-ran in the field of jazz. By that time contemporary jazz hard been split wide open into soul jazz and free jazz, to name just two which were apart from hard bop.

1963 was to hard bop what 1947/48 was to big band jazz. ;) It was still around but was it still the pacesetting form of jazz?

Edited by Big Beat Steve

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And let's face it - while I would not dare to judge what made Jones/Baraka write what he did in 1963, by that year hard bop had already become an also-ran in the field of jazz. By that time contemporary jazz hard been split wide open into soul jazz and free jazz, to name just two which were apart from hard bop.

1963 was to hard bop what 1947/48 was to big band jazz. ;) It was still around but was it still the pacesetting form of jazz?

One needs to remember the "marketplace/workplace" was the nightclub in 1963. Without the draw of a Miles or Coltrane, they clung to the earlier groups.

Where the music was moving was a very different place from where the money was.

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Also worth remembering - there was no equivalent of "LeRoi Jones" during The Bebop Revolution. One can only imagine what might have been written if there had been...

As well as what kind of world it would have been where "such a thing" existed therein. Certainly would not have been The World As It Was. that's for sure.

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I agree that hard bop played itself out by the mid-1960s, but that doesn't explain the animosity Baraka felt for it in 1963.

Sure it does.

In 1963, Cecil & Ornette had already been around long enough to have made an impact past being "novelties", Albert Ayler's name was beginning to get out there (and his music heard a little), Trane & Elvin were really beginning to get in gear, lots of things that had been fermenting were starting to come to the surface, none of which had too much to do with putting on a suit & tie, running the changes with a "bluesy" virtuosity, and saying "We sincerely hope you do enjoy".

And that's just in the music...

You gotta remember, Baraka was a "radical", musically and socially. His patience for the status quo was next to nil, and having real, viable options at hand just made it more so.

No, I don't think the timing explains it. Sorry. If Blues People had been written in 1959 I think he would have been just as dismissive of the genre. Even before the free jazz era, Baraka was looking for musical rebels, and the hard boppers definitely weren't that.

Well if you wanted to be extremely reductionist and group all of jazz into various sub-genres, I would say hard bop has been one of the most artistically successful areas in jazz history. I'd take it over all the genres of music from before the Second World War, over bebop (which had become repetitive within a handful of years of its first recordings) and fusion. I'd probably take free jazz over hard bop, but those would probably be my top two.

Again, this is all personal opinion but I spend way more time listening to hard bop records than I do to swing records or early jazz records.

Look at it closely .. I am not being any more reductionist than you are. In your above statement as well as in the one preceding it, you subdivide "all of jazz into various sub-genres" yourself. Which is a statement of fact because there ARE different styles of jazz so nothing wrong about that, no matter who makes that statement. And good and not so good jazz was made in all styles through the histroy of jazz.

As for hard bop being the artistically most successful style of jazz, that would be a matter of personal preferences and can indeed be contested but depends on what criteria you would consider essential for "artistic success". ANY style preceding hard bop can make that claim depending on whether you are willing to accept to see each style of jazz on the terms of its time and depending on whether you value the groundwork or later embellishments higher ;). It may be argued that most hard boppers by and large were technically more proficient than most 20s jazzmen (though in order to prove that they would have had to show they were able to play 20s jazz just as well as or in fact even better than 20s jazzmen, assuming this earlier jazz is technically and artistically more simple ;)) and they may have accomplished musically more advanced feats than 20s and 30s jazzmen, but does this alone make them "artistically more successful"? Not by a long shot if one is willing to judge music on the terms of the time the music was actually made FIRST.

So IMHO it again boils down to personal preferences and therefore is pointless to try to debate.

And let's face it - while I would not dare to judge what made Jones/Baraka write what he did in 1963, by that year hard bop had already become an also-ran in the field of jazz. By that time contemporary jazz hard been split wide open into soul jazz and free jazz, to name just two which were apart from hard bop.

1963 was to hard bop what 1947/48 was to big band jazz. ;) It was still around but was it still the pacesetting form of jazz?

I actually think one of the main reasons that I prefer hard bop over earlier styles has to do with technological change. Hard bop was really the first jazz movement that didn't have to restrict itself to a 3 or 3 1/2 minute performance on record. And as a listener that makes a huge difference for me, as most swing, big band and early jazz recordings sound pinched to me. I know that in some cases technological limitations can produce superior art (the silent movie era is testament to this) but for me the shorter times of early jazz recordings just don't work. (And yes, I've heard the argument about economy of expression many times. I don't buy it.)

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

well put.

Amen. So he doesn't like it. Who cares?

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I agree that hard bop played itself out by the mid-1960s, but that doesn't explain the animosity Baraka felt for it in 1963.

Sure it does.

In 1963, Cecil & Ornette had already been around long enough to have made an impact past being "novelties", Albert Ayler's name was beginning to get out there (and his music heard a little), Trane & Elvin were really beginning to get in gear, lots of things that had been fermenting were starting to come to the surface, none of which had too much to do with putting on a suit & tie, running the changes with a "bluesy" virtuosity, and saying "We sincerely hope you do enjoy".

And that's just in the music...

You gotta remember, Baraka was a "radical", musically and socially. His patience for the status quo was next to nil, and having real, viable options at hand just made it more so.

No, I don't think the timing explains it. Sorry. If Blues People had been written in 1959 I think he would have been just as dismissive of the genre. Even before the free jazz era, Baraka was looking for musical rebels, and the hard boppers definitely weren't that.

Sorry, but read his 1959 essay about his homeboy Wayne Shorter in Black Music. or, in the same book, his near-ecstatic review of the Monk/Rouse/Warren/Dunlop group. For that matter, read the book in chronological, rather than as-published, order. From 1959 to 1967, the "militancy" makes almost exponential leaps, as it did in the real world.

Now, you can say that neither Monk nor Shorter were ever typical "hard bop", and that is correct. But that also goes to the point that Jones' discomfort was not so much with the music of Hard Bop as it was the relative lack of truly original thinking in most of that music, not the basic stylistic elements of it. And that lack was much more glaring in 1963 than it was in 1959.

The jazz "landscape" in 1963 was quite different than it was in 1959. Hell, in 1959, Cecil was still playing "tunes" for the most part, Ornette had just come to New York, and Trane had just begun to look at modal playing (and that thanks to Miles - Trane was still very much into changes and all their permutations). If you were going to look for "rebels" in the jazz world of 1959, it would have been in the general milieu of Hard Bop (or else in a few other places that were not relevant to LeRoi Jones' world). Where else and what else where the hip players playing? But in 1963...whole 'nother world. Fundamentally, profoundly different.

And truthfully, I don't even know if LeRoi Jones even writes Blues People in 1959. I don't know if his mind is even in that place yet. Think about that!

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There's a lot of truth to what Baraka says in the quote that started off this thread, but there's also a lot of great hard bop music. Like all genres (including free jazz) it could easily fall into repetitive cliche, but during its prime it was responsible for some of the best music in jazz history.

well put.

"During its prime" is the operative phrase here. During their prime, iambic pentameter, royal masques and epic poetry were pretty cool too. But art forms evolve, and artists move on. Unfortunately, not so with the school of hard bop. Miles knew he had to, Coltrane knew he had to, Ornette knew it too. However, lesser luminaries continue to flog this musical form decade after decade after decade, long after its artistic life has fled.

Hard Bop had a lot of similarities to small group Swing, and often provided great blues players a good backdrop to work their magic. As long as there were a lot of great distinctive blues voices around, it made sense. When Red Holloway played it in 2011, it still made sense. RIP

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I remember reading the liner notes to "Bacalao" by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, written by Amiri. He essentially spends most of the notes describing how "sub-par" this kind of jazz is and how Lockjaw makes it barely listenable. I found it funny that they would choose someone to write liner notes who hates the music he's writing about.

He reminds me of Britain's Philip Larkin - someone from the literary world whose attitude to jazz is far from orthodox, dismissing major areas of the music.

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I remember reading the liner notes to "Bacalao" by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, written by Amiri. He essentially spends most of the notes describing how "sub-par" this kind of jazz is and how Lockjaw makes it barely listenable. I found it funny that they would choose someone to write liner notes who hates the music he's writing about.

He reminds me of Britain's Philip Larkin - someone from the literary world whose attitude to jazz is far from orthodox, dismissing major areas of the music.

Whose orthodoxy are we talking about here?

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Always worth remembering that it's a critical construction projected onto the music. Interesting as academic debate. But it shouldn't make anyone feel guilty about enjoying hard bop. Unless you feel a need to be in his gang.

The point about the context in which he was writing mentioned several times above is important. 60 years ago a certain group of historians staked their academic reputations on the idea that the English Civil War was caused by the rising gentry challenging the aristocracy (the 'bourgeois revolution' of Marxist dogma). Doesn't look anything like as clear cut today. Though that's a construction too!

Edited by A Lark Ascending

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Always worth remembering that it's a critical construction projected onto the music. Interesting as academic debate. But it shouldn't make anyone feel guilty about enjoying hard bop. Unless you feel a need to be in his gang.

Which is why one can read as many books by Hugues Panassié as one sees fit to and STILL enjoy both bebop and white swing. :g :g

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I think the question was why Jones "hated" Hard Bop, not if he was right to.

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I remember reading the liner notes to "Bacalao" by Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis, written by Amiri. He essentially spends most of the notes describing how "sub-par" this kind of jazz is and how Lockjaw makes it barely listenable. I found it funny that they would choose someone to write liner notes who hates the music he's writing about.

He reminds me of Britain's Philip Larkin - someone from the literary world whose attitude to jazz is far from orthodox, dismissing major areas of the music.

Whose orthodoxy are we talking about here?

The generally agreed consensus; e.g. Larkin rejected Charlie Parker and all post-Parker jazz.

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Always worth remembering that it's a critical construction projected onto the music. Interesting as academic debate. But it shouldn't make anyone feel guilty about enjoying hard bop. Unless you feel a need to be in his gang.

Which is why one can read as many books by Hugues Panassié as one sees fit to and STILL enjoy both bebop and white swing. :g :g

Or the diktats of the post-1980 jazz neo-classicists and still enjoy jazz-rock, free jazz and...shock horror...jazz albums made by Norwegians on ECM!

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I think the question was why Jones "hated" Hard Bop, not if he was right to.

Probably for the same reason that Malcolm X and the later Black Power movement could be so hostile to the more moderate civil rights groups (or in other eras, why the Bolsheviks were hostile to the Mensheviks or the Jacobins to the Girondins). It was not moving the revolution forward fast enough (if at all).

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