For one reason or another, there are many talented musicians who never became famous. Elmo Hope is one of those musicians. His brilliance on the piano can be heard on Sonny Rollins’ album, Moving Out. Hope was a musician’s musician, in the sense that his colleagues and contemporaries knew how good he was, but he never achieved wider acknowledgment from the public.
An example of how far Hope had fallen from the public’s consciousness, was what became of his album Informal Jazz. It was released on the Prestige label in 1956. Hope’s sidemen at the time were John Coltrane, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Philly Joe Jones, and a 21 year old Paul Chambers. It was a brilliant album, but far from a top seller. When Prestige reissued the album in the late 60s, they decided to credit the album to John Coltrane and Hank Mobley, despite the fact that Hope was the leader, and they were his sidemen. They also renamed the album “Two Tenors“.
Hope died of heart failure in 1967 at the age of 43. When I think of Elmo Hope, I envision Herbie Nichols. Another talented pianist, who like Hope never got famous, despite the respect and critical acclaim he garnered.
Listen to the cuts below from Elmo Hope’s Informal Jazz. Get familiar with his work, both as a leader and a sideman. It’s well worth the effort.
Elmo Hope LP Photo Credit – The Cover Project