Jazz is littered with musicians like Elmo Hope
: young, talented and, ultimately, doomed because of racism, poverty, and chemical dependency. Born in New York City
, the son of immigrants from the Caribbean, Hope managed to release more than a baker's dozen of studio recordings in as many years, before dying of drug addiction-related health problems in 1967 at the age of 43. Hope was primarily known as a jazz composer with a spare, deliberate piano style more akin to that of Horace Silver
than more loquacious practitioners such as Bud Powell
(a childhood friend of Hope's) or Art Tatum
Hope's debut recording featured a trio format with bassist Percy Heath
and drummer Philly Joe Jones
, made as part of the Blue Note 5000 series New FacesNew Sounds
. Originally released on a long-playing, thirty-three-and-a-third rpm, 10-inch microgroove album, Hope's first recording was later combined with some quintet sides that the pianist made with trumpeters Charles Freeman Lee and Stu Williamson
, bassists Heath and Leroy Vinnegar
and drummers Jones, Art Blakey
and Frank Butler
, on an expanded release entitled Trio and Quintet
(Blue Note, 1989).
Stylistically, Hope's composing and performance comprises a hinge joining bebop and hard bop. His compositions bear the characteristic complex head of hard bop, followed by solo space, closing with a reprise of the opening head, with "Mo is On" being typical. Hope could certainly perform a standard, waxing balladic on the Gus Arnheim, Charles N. Daniels, and Harry Tobias 1931 popular song "Sweet and Lovely." "Stars Over Marakesh" has an Eastern flavor, lightly accented by Jones' precise drumming. Hope's composing was insightful and all-encompassing, making for informed and entertaining listening.
Bassist Heath provides on-the-nose timekeeping propelled by Jones, before the latter was assimilated into Miles Davis
' first great quintet with Paul Chambers
, Red Garland
and John Coltrane
. Hope displays an easy swing which informs all of his composition. He is a minor jazz figure deserving of more attention and study. There is much to learn from him on these early recordings.
Mo is On; Sweet and Lovely; Happy Hour; Hot Sauce; Stars Over Marakech; Freffie; Carving the Rock; I remember You.