Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Listening to Prestige Part 186: Jackie McLean/Bill Hardman

Bill Hardman was a youthful 23 when Jackie McLean presented him as his pal/protégé, which was actually two years older than Paul Chambers, who was already a veteran...but Chambers started mighty young. Hardman did too,  even though this is is first jazz recording. Even in high school, he was playing with Tadd Dameron's orchestra. After graduating, he joined Tiny Bradshaw's rhythm and blues ensemble, and he can be heard on some of Bradshaw's recordings, although not as a soloist.

He was with Bradshaw from 1953-55, and after that, he was hired by Charles Mingus for a short time -- long enough to become friends with fellow Mingus bandman Jackie McLean (Mal Waldron was also in that group). He would make two more albums with McLean for Prestige, and shortly after this first session, both pals were grabbed up by Art Blakey, who had signed with Columbia, for the second version of his Jazz Messengers.

Hardman would do three different tours with Blakey. And he would endure. Long after bebop and hard bop had gone out of fashion, Hardman kept the flame alive, forming a bop quintet with tenor sax player Junior Cook that was still getting gigs, and appreciative audicnces, through the 70s and 80s.

Hardman died in Paris in 1990, and the headline of his obituary in the New York Times read,
curiously, "Bill Hardman, 57, Trumpeter Known For Improvisations." What did they think jazz musicians did?

Peter Watrous, who does know what jazz musicians do, wrote the obit, and what he actually said was "A fiery but lyrical improviser, Mr. Hardman was one of the last surviving major trumpeters to come out of the 1950's. " This was Watrous's third sentence, and I guess the headline writer didn't feel he needed to read any further.

The composition credits are democratically spread around the group (Jackie was no Miles Davis). "Sweet Doll" is McLean's, "Just for Marty" and "Sublues" are by Hardman, and Mal Waldron brings in "Dee's Dilemma," making for a nice mix and a nice consistency at the same time.

The session is rounded out by Charlie Parker's "Steeplechase" and the standard "It Could Happen To You," which had also recently been recorded by Miles in one of his Contractual Marathon sessions. Listening to both versions back to back is more enjoyable than instructive. The only thing I learned was that when you give a great melody to great improvisers, the results are going to be different. Miles's group takes it at a brisker tempo, even though the tempo-setters on bass and drums are the same for both sessions.

By this time Paul Chambers was established as the bassist in one of the most recognizable ensembles in the history of jazz, and although at this time jazz history was being made, not considered in hindsight, people already knew how important this quintet was.

What people don't always remember is how short-lived it was. Miles formed it in late 1955,  recorded pretty heavily with it in 1956, and disbanded it in 1957, not getting it back together until 1958, and then as a sextet. Its rhythm section recorded independently, together or separately, and continued to grow as musicians -- one of the big differences between the Miles and the Jackie versions of "It Could Happen to You" is Paul Chambers' solo. Chambers is developing, and asserting himself.

The album was first released as Jackie's Pal: Introducing Bill Hardman, which is a little odd. New guys make album debuts all the time. But generous of Jackie. It was later rereleased on New Jazz as Steeplechase, a title that looked back to Bird rather than forward to the burgeoning career of young Hardman.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tad--Why do I think Bill Hardman's technique on "It Could Happen To You" reminds me a lot of Clifford Brown?
Bob B.