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When I was growing up, it was commonplace for teachers, radio announcers, and certain kinds of critics to use the term, serious music, as applying only to classical sounds. And I still hear and see that phrase used in the same misleading and wholly uninformed way. As if Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and Ornette Coleman and thousands more jazz musicians were not passionately and disciplinarily serious about their music. As if Bessie Smith were any less serious than Claudio Muzio. Indeed, during some forty years of knowing jazz players and composers, I am continually struck by the enormous seriousness it takes not only to master an instrument but then be able to so improvise on it that it becomes and extension of yourself. No classical musician takes that kind of risk or makes himself that seriously vulnerable. Being serious about what you do does not, of course, have to mean being pompous or unremittingly solemn. Joy is serious, so is wit. That is, to communicate any emotion, you need hard-won skills. And to achieve a strongly distinctive style, you need that other dimension-imagination. Actually, a case can be made-and I hereby make it-that jazz players are more serious than any other musicians because they have to know and reveal more as continuous improvisers. Elmo Hope is an illustration. He was always working toward clearer and more inventive expressiveness. He was always exploring, as he put it. And that drive toward perfecting his music did not diminish even though he paid hard dues throughout most of his life- never breaking through to a larger audience, although musicians recognized his importance.
|Instruments||Music and Musicians|
|Accompanist/ Conductor||bassist John Ore and either Philly Joe Jones or Clifford Jarvis on drums|
Customer Reviews (3)
- "A Talent Deserving Wider Recognition"Review by Big Toots
In this second volume of Elmo Hope’s last recordings, we encounter the pianist on two separate sessions (March and August, 1966). What is immediately noticeable is that on the material recorded with drummer Philly Joe Jones (“I Love You,” “Night in Tunisia,” “Stellations” and “Elmo’s Blues”) there is an even greater energy to the date and Hope’s playing versus when Jones is absent. Whether or not Jones had a “driving” effect on Hope is unknown. However, a closer listen and compare – in my mind – confirms that. Hope is simply swinging and does so unmercifully.
As mentioned in my Volume 1 comments, Hope’s melodic and improv style were quite unique. He favored rhythmically diverse solo lines, the far upper reaches of the keyboard, and an almost Monkish flair. You hear that on his original, “Stellations.” Along with Bud Powell – a childhood chum – Monk, and Hope shared a keen interest in expanding Bop chordal and melodic approaches.
Hope swings heavily on Cole Porter’s “I Love You” and Gershwin’s “Somebody Loves Me,” exhibiting an ease of execution and playfulness with both melody and what’s underneath harmonically. Hope’s ability to work GAS tunes was stellar – in some ways more interesting than on his original material. As someone who backed up and also drew from great instrumentalists (John Coltrane, Clifford Brown, Chet Baker, et al.), Hope could spin a melodic line superbly (“Somebody Loves Me”). His time was spot-on.
Hope’s ballad textures were and are superb here (“Bertha, My Dear”), even on a piano that sounds a hair out-of-tune. Compositionally, Hope wrote well and much in awe of Monk (“Elmo’s Blues”) and Bud Powell. That particular tune has a melancholy that drips.
Elmo Hope’s “Last Sessions” are a fascinating look at an artist who might be easily described as a “Van Gogh” of the piano. Give it an earful.
(Posted on 6/9/2015)
- Last Sessions Vol. 2Review by Simon Sez
Last Sessions, Vol. 2 has Hope and his trio playing three of his tunes (including “Bertha My Dear”) and fine versions of such well known songs as “A Night In Tunisia,” “I Love You” and “Somebody Loves Me.” Elmo Hope may have only had a year left in his life but he was still in top form for this excellent album which bebop collectors should get.
Simon Sez: Elmo Hope’s Last Sessions, Vol. 2 (IC1037) has the bebop pianist and songwriter sounding excellent at the end of his career. (Posted on 5/6/2014)
- Review by Michael
Elmo Hope released far too few albums, and after his death, hardly anything has been unearthed. This recording and Volume I, both issued by Inner City Records on CD in 2008, stand as his last will and testament, and both come highly recommended for their sustainable quality and purity. (Posted on 6/14/2013)
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