Four Post-Bop Classics on Blue Note

Post-bop is jazz from the mid-1960s onward that assimilates hard bop, modal jazz, avant-garde and free jazz without necessarily being immediately identifiable as any of the above.

According to musicologist Jeremy Yudkin, post-bop does not follow “the conventions of bop or the apparently formless freedom of the new jazz”.  He wrote in his definition of the subgenre:

Forms, tempos, and meters are freer, all the compositions are new, and the band members themselves are featured composers…. [A]n approach that is abstract and intense in the extreme, with space created for rhythmic and coloristic independence of the drummer—an approach that incorporated modal and chordal harmonies, flexible form, structured choruses, melodic variation, and free improvisation.”

Miles Davis‘ second quintet was active during 1965 to 1968 and featured pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and drummer Tony Williams. They recorded six studio albums that, according to All About Jazz’s C. Michael Bailey, introduced post-bop: E.S.P. (1965), Miles Smiles (1967), Sorcerer (1967), Nefertiti (1968), Miles in the Sky (1968), and Filles de Kilimanjaro (1968).  (Bailey, C. Michael (April 11, 2008). Miles Davis, Miles Smiles, and the Invention of Post Bop)

Much Post-bop was recorded on Blue Note Records, and I am going to highlight four recordings I consider classics of the style:

Judgment – Andrew Hill
Inner Urge – Joe Henderson
Dialogue – Bobby Hutcherson
Night Dreamer – Wayne Shorter

MI0001569153Augmenting his rhythm section of bassist Richard Davis and drummer Elvin Jones with vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson, pianist Andrew Hill records an excellent set of subdued but adventurous post-bop with Judgment. Without any horns, the mood of the session is calmer than Black Fire, but Hill’s compositions take more risks than before. Close listening reveals how he subverts hard bop structure and brings in rhythmic and harmonic elements from modal jazz and the avant-garde. The harmonic structure on each composition is quite complex, fluctuating between dissonant chords and nimble, melodic improvisations.  Naturally, Hill’s playing shines in this self-created context, but Hutcherson equals the pianist with his complex, provocative solos and unexpected melodic juxtapositions. Jones shifts the rhythms with style, and his solos are exceptionally musical, as is Davis’ fluid bass. The combination of the band’s intricate interplay and the stimulating compositions make Judgment another important release from Hill. It may require careful listening, but the results are worth it.  (AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine)

The first track, “Siete Ocho”, meaning “Seven Eight”, is an intriguing 7/8 piece with a main theme about 20 measures long. “Flea Flop” was named “for the first notes of the melody, which seemed to suggest a jumping flea. This is also dedicated to the hotels and motels that jazz sidemen are obliged to stay in all over the country.” The composition “Yokada Yokada” was named after the song “Yakety Yak”, referring to “senseless dialogue between people,” whilst “Alfred” was, of course, dedicated to producer Alfred Lion because of his “natural understanding of jazz in general,” and because of the rapport that was established in the interpretation of Hill’s tunes. The title track “Judgment” was inspired by a poem written by Hill’s wife, Lavern. Ultimately, “Reconciliation” wants to represent “the adjustment every musician has to make to achieve unity and harmony with the rest of the group.”  (Original liner notes by Leonard Feather)

220px-InnerUrgeThis early recording by Joe Henderson is not only one of the finest of all of his recordings, but is also a high point for 1960s jazz. At this point in his career, Henderson was a full-time member of Horace Silver’s combo and did not yet have a steady band in his hire. He is joined on Inner Urge by veterans of other combos: McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones from John Coltrane’s unit and Sonny Rollins sideman Bob Cranshaw. The presence of these luminaries aside, Inner Urge is home to two of Henderson’s best (and best-loved) compositions: “Inner Urge” and “Isotope.” The leader’s solo on the title track is a marvelous thing, full of melody as well as anarchic bursts of sound, which is in perfect keeping with the spirit of the song’s probing, searching theme. The other musicians support Henderson nicely as well as turning in some strong solos of their own. Tyner especially sounds fantastic on this record. Although not the equal of the leader in terms of the quality of his lines or the overall sense of composition of his solos, his performance is at least the rival of Henderson’s in terms of raw kinetic power. The other great song on “Inner Urge,” the Monk-ish “Isotope,” is another ideal showcase for Henderson’s total command of his instrument. The remaining tracks on Inner Urge are also fantastic, especially the wailing cry of “El Barrio” and the Henderson-altered head to “Night and Day,” but the first side, even if taken alone, is by itself enough to guarantee this album as perhaps the best Henderson recorded in his long and illustrious career, and stands easily alongside the best records of the era.  (AllMusic Review by Daniel Gioffre)

MI0000354119Coming fresh on the heels of his groundbreaking work with Eric Dolphy, Bobby Hutcherson’s debut album is a masterpiece of “new thing” avant-garde jazz, not really free but way beyond standard hard bop. Dialogue boasts an all-star lineup of hot young post-boppers — trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, woodwind player Sam Rivers, pianist Andrew Hill, bassist Richard Davis, and drummer Joe Chambers — and a set of imaginative compositions by either Hill or Chambers that frequently push the ensemble into uncharted territory. The result is an album bursting at the seams with ideas that still sound remarkably fresh, not to mention a strong sense of collectivity. Hutcherson has so many fine players on hand that the focus is naturally on group interaction rather than any particular soloist(s), setting up nice contrasts like the fiery sax work of Rivers versus the cooler tones of Hutcherson and Hill. Hill’s pieces stand tradition on its head, twisting recognizable foundations like the blues (“Ghetto Lights”), Latin jazz (“Catta”), and marching bands (“Les Noirs Marchant,” which sounds like a parade of mutant soldiers) into cerebral, angular shapes. Chambers, meanwhile, contributes the most loosely structured pieces in his delicate, softly mysterious ballad “Idle While” and the nearly free group conversations of the ten-minute title track, where Hutcherson also plays the more African-sounding marimba. What’s impressive is how focused Hutcherson keeps the group through those widely varied sounds; no one is shortchanged, yet the solos are tight, with no wasted space or spotlight-hogging. Dialogue remains Hutcherson’s most adventurous, “outside” album, and while there are more extensive showcases for his playing, this high-caliber session stands as arguably his greatest musical achievement.  (AllMusic Review by Steve Huey)

The Penguin Guide to Jazz awarded it the maximum five stars, as well as the special “crown” accolade in the first and second editions. They write: “Dialogue stands head and shoulders above Hutcherson’s other classic Blue Note dates. Drawing on some of the free-harmonic and -rhythmic innovations developed on Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch (on which Hutcherson played), he began to develop a complex contrapuntal style that involved parallel melodies rather than unisons and complex rhythmic patterns which he conceived… as focal points round which the musicians operated.”  (Richard Cook and Brian Morton, The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD, LP & Cassette, 1st ed. (Penguin, 1992)

MI0000442218Night Dreamer is the fourth album by Wayne Shorter, recorded and released in 1964. It was Shorter’s debut on Blue Note. With a quintet that includes trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Elvin Jones, Shorter performed six of his originals on this April 29 session.  (AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow)

At this point of his career, Shorter felt his writing was changing. While the previous compositions had a “lot of detail”, this new approach had a simplistic quality to it. “I used to use a lot of chord changes, for instance, but now I can separate the wheat from the chaff.”

In an interview with Nat Hentoff, Shorter focused on the album’s meaning: “What I’m trying to express here is a sense of judgment approaching – judgment for everything alive from the smallest ant to man. I know that the accepted meaning of “Armageddon” is the last battle between good and evil – whatever it is. But my definition of the judgment to come is a period of total enlightenment in which we will discover what we are and why we’re here.”

“Night Dreamer” has mostly a minor feel, often perceived by Shorter as “evening or night”, hence the “Night” in the title. It is a 3/4 “floating” piece, yet, “although the beat does float, it also is set in a heavy groove. It’s a paradox, in a way, like you’d have in a dream”. This explains the “Dreamer” part. Shorter first heard “Oriental Folk Song” as the theme for a commercial, then he discovered it was an old Chinese song. He meant “Virgo” (Shorter’s sign) to be “optimistic”, whilst in “Black Nile” he tried to get a flowing feeling, like a “depiction of a river route.” “Charcoal Blues” should represent a sort of backtracking piece, linking the past and the present time together: “The old blues and funk were good for their times and place, but what I’m trying to do now is to get the meat out of the old blues while also presaging the different kind of blues to come. […] I’m both looking back at the good things in those older blues and also laughing at that part of my background”. Shorter underlines that the laughter is not mocking but satirical, “from the inside”. Ultimately, “Armageddon” was considered by Shorter as the focal point of the album.  (Original liner notes by Nat Hentoff)

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