Hard bop falls in and out of fashion in rapid cycles.
But the style has become a hardy perennial with sufficient scope for reinvention as well as reinforcement of the staple Blue Note/Prestige “golden era" period in the late-1950s and early-1960s.
Appearing on the London scene some five years ago as one of the then current crop of Tomorrow’s Warriors artists in the making that included Zem Audu and Shabaka Hutchings (heard incidentally to effect on the Jazz Line-Up show last night on Radio 3) Mark Crown has made giant leaps of late.
Along with someone like Andy Davies who leads the jazz jam in Ronnie’s Bar on Wednesdays (although Andy comes out of the Kenny Dorham lineage while Mark is more from the Clifford Brown school), he proves the point that hard bop is relevant to a younger generation who bring new ideas to the style and avoid being too knowingly retro. Check him out here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fQnhtGxC0Jk, and if you want to hear Mark in person with his new band he’s playing tonight with his Sack o’ Woe Quintet in a bill that also includes prog organ trio Troyka and avant garde pianist Howard Riley.
What kind of place must Milo’s in Leeds be? You can make an educated guess by listening to a clip of Roller Trio playing ‘The Nail That Stands Up’ on YouTube and you would in all probability be completely wrong, because there’s only so much you can glean from a bit of murky video captured in some unknown club in a faraway place that you might only ever visit if the arbitrariness of life takes you there.
One thing though that the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsIm_SKzvuQ) does convey is the sharp scuzzy attack of the band that bristles with one thing a lot of super educated young jazz polite boys often lack: attitude, the kind of Only This Matters Ever attitude of a Paul Weller on form, a Roy Hargrove when he’s totally gone, or an Andrew Plummer in the dystopian depths of his stage persona when nothing else counts.
Roller first surfaced by winning the Whittingham, the prize that has spotted noted talents of the order of Soweto Kinch and World Service Project. The Roller boys are electronicist/tenor saxophonist James Mainwaring, guitarist Luke Wynter and drummer Luke Reddin-Williams, and in case you haven’t flicked up the clip or checked them out on Soundcloud, like to dip their toes in garage rock, and blend it with the brooding beats beloved of the Bristol scene, and up to the minute dubstep routines spliced with an on-the-fly improvising candour.
They’re featured as part of the BBC Introducing night at Band on the Wall in Manchester on 16 July along with new bands Dakhla, im Quartet, and Eyes Shut Tight. Worth buying their debut album if you can get hold of a copy.