The focus of this compilation, which reissues music from the second and third editions of the Jazz Messengers, is on the horn players, but the high-energy leadership of drummer Art Blakey is its heart. Recorded in 1956, Hard Bop actually has a distinct bop feel. Bill Hardman's fine showing on the date will surprise listeners who associate the trumpeter with a relatively limited bag of tricks. His off-kilter, rubbery, burping sound and ready supply of ideas is a major asset here. The great altoist Jackie McLean is also in fine form. Pianist Sam Dockery, an engaging player, solos mainly with his right hand, allowing Blakey and bassist Spanky Debrest to create the currents for his bright streams of single notes. The set's highlight is a cheeky treatment of McLean's great line "Little Melonae."
Hard bop more accurately describes Paris Concert from the 1958 edition of the Jazz Messengers, which included charter member hard boppers Lee Morgan on trumpet and pianist Bobby Timmons. Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson impresses with power and advanced harmonic thinking similar to John Coltrane's from this period. Timmons' insistent approach is key to this band's driving sound. Similarly, bassist Jymie Merritt, although prosaic as a soloist, is indispensable as a partner in the rhythm section. The highlight of this recording from Olympia Music Hall is a 13-minute version of "Moanin'." The fiery version here arguably surpasses the one performed by this same group on the classic Jazz Messengers' Blue Note release named after the Timmons composition.
AllMusic Review by Jim Todd
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