Hard bop jazz

So-called hard bop evolved naturally from the bop style originated in the 1940s by artists like Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. It often featured more discernible melodies, a looser rhythm section and influences of gospel and R&B (a subgenre was 1960s' soul jazz), and even more adventurousness in stretching the bounds of tonality and time. Some of the key artists of hard bop included Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Roland Kirk and Stanley Turrentine.

Hard bop was the jazz music in vogue when Brian and Charlie were growing up, who both became devoted fans.


Before Brian was an R&B fanatic, he was a jazz fanatic and played saxophone, and at one time in his late teens Cannonball Adderley was his idol. Born in Florida, Adderley, a saxophonist known for the exuberance of his style, found success in the late 1950s, playing alongside artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane. Brian named two of his sons (Julian) after him.

When the Stones toured the U.S. for the second time in the fall of 1964, Brian went to see Adderley perform in Greenwich Village during their New York stop. During the Stones' 1997-99 Bridges to Babylon tour, a recording of Adderley's The Sticks played while the Stones walked across the bridge to the mini stage.

ART BLAKEY  (1919-1990)

Another drummer Charlie much admired, Blakey was born in Pittsburgh and started playing in the 1940s, leading him to Billy Eckstine's band, through which bop greats like Charlie Parker and Miles Davis passed. In the mid-50s, Blakey formed the Jazz Messengers with other musicians, a hard bop combo that resisted the temptation to avant-garde in the '60s and remained a flagstone for the jazz (hard) bop genre. Not a subtle drummer like Max Roach, Blakey was known for the sheer power of his style and his mastery of driving rhythm. The Messengers continued playing well into the '80s as the flagship for classic hard bop. A track named after Blakey is featured on the Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project album (2000).

JOHN COLTRANE  (1926-1967)

Born in North Carolina, saxophonist John Coltrane altered the landscape of jazz, along with Miles Davis, in helping to create hard bop, as well as laying down the blueprint for modern jazz saxophone in general.

Coltrane's career started in the late 1940s, when he played with various artists, including Dizzy Gillespie's big band, but the pivotal year was 1955 when he joined the Miles Davis Quintet. He recorded for the quintet for two years (which also featured Sonny Rollins). He was kicked out for his heroin addiction, which, like Miles Davis, he subsequently conquered. He then played with Thelonious Monk, before rejoining Davis from 1958 to 1960, recording albums that were really the starting point of hard bop, accelerating the rhythms furiously and stretching improvisation to near atonality.

In the early 1960s, Coltrane started his own career and took another direction, gearing off into avant-garde, playing extremely lengthy improvisations. In 1965, Coltrane ventured even further, exploring a style that now was basically melody-less and almost totally free. He died two years later of ill health.

Along with Cannonball Adderley, Coltrane was a favorite of Brian Jones in the late 1950s and early '60s when Brian was still a jazz fanatic and playing the saxophone. Though he rarely used horns with the Stones, Coltrane was an important influence on Brian's knowledge of the instrument.

ELVIN JONES  (1927-2004)

Born in Michigan, jazz drummer Jones moved to New York City in the mid-1950s and began playing with bop artists such as Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins. His greatest and most influential work, however, came when he joined John Coltrane's outfit in the late 1950s. The recordings he made with Coltrane until 1965 helped define hard bop and stretch the boundaries of jazz drumming and jazz music very far. Jones has continued performing and leading a band since then, and is still performing today.

Jones is another favorite of Charlie's. The Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project (2000)'s last track called, Elvin Suite, is named after him.

When Elvin gets going, it rolls. It's like thunder and everything, but to watch him it just rolls. The arms go... Elvin is a huge black dynamo, you know. Naturally when you listen to him go, that's what he sounds like. And it doesn't have to be fast. It is this MACHINE going. It's not a machine that's clicking regular; it's what Miles (Davis) used to call between the beats. It's African. It's what he is, man.

                                                   - Charlie Watts, 1994


TONY WILLIAMS  (1945-1997)

Like Elvin Jones, Tony Williams is one of the later, post-bop drummers that Charlie admires. Born in Chicago, Williams was a child prodigy, and by his late teens in the 1960s he was already playing with Miles Davis' group, developing a free-form style of drumming that pushed the boundaries of jazz into hard bop and avant-garde jazz. In 1969, he left Davis to form his own group, Lifetime, a rock/jazz fusion group with Larry Young and John McLaughlin. Williams eventually started composing material and fronting his own band in the 1980s and beyond. In 1997, he died of a heart attack following a routine surgery.

In his biography of the Stones, Stanley Booth recounts an episode during their 1969 U.S. tour, during their stop in New York, when the band attended a Lifetime performance at a New York club. In 2000, the Charlie Watts/Jim Keltner Project album had a track entitled Tony Williams, in tribute.

My favorite (drummer with Miles onstage would be) Tony Williams, by a long way. And Tony, more important, really, because he turned drumming around. Nobody played like Tony Williams did when he was 18. When I first saw him he was 18. Nobody played like that. You didn't drop time on your hat... Have you got the album Four And More? That's a classic example of Tony Williams' way of playing the drums. The way I play and the way most guys played until he arrived would be to play straight through - 1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2. Foot, foot. Left foot, right foot, left foot, you know. But Tony would go tt-tt, tt-tt, tt-tt, tt-tt with his left foot, and nobody ever did that sort of thing. They didn't play time like that. He would drop time, he would halve it.

                                                   - Charlie Watts, 1994

Written by Ian McPherson, 2000.
Like all files on Time Is On Our Side, it is the exclusive intellectual property
of Ian McPherson and cannot be duplicated, in any form, without his authorization.

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