Elmo Hope Day

June 27, 1923 – May 19, 1967

Mo Is On

Pianist, composer, and arranger Elmo Hope was born on June 27, 1923, in New York City, New York.

Elmo Hope grew up listening to jazz and classical music with his childhood neighbor, Bud Powell.

His only formal musical training was in high school – the former Benjamin Franklin High School on 116th Street in East Harlem, which also claims Sonny Rollins as a student.

In spite of this, Hope developed a very sophisticated understanding of music theory, which shows in his playing and the high regard he was held in by his peers, including study and practice partners Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.

Shot by police when he was seventeen after six weeks of hospitalization, Hope was falsely charged with armed robbery in an attempted frame-up.

Justice prevailed, and he was cleared of all charges. After serving his country in late 1947, he began playing with an octet led by trumpeter Eddie Robinson.

Elmo mainly gigged in clubs as a soloist before his stay with the “Joe Morris Band” from 1948 to 1951.

In June 1953, he recorded as a member of a quintet led by Clifford Brown and Lou Donaldson, producing six songs that have been suggested were instrumental in commencing the hard bop jazz revolution.

That year, he also released his debut album “Elmo Hope Trio” on Blue Note, featuring Percy Heath on bass and drummer Philly Joe Jones.

Hope would also record leading a quintet featuring Frank Foster and Art Blakey and would go on to work with Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and Jackie McLean.

Elmo Hope moved to Los Angeles while touring with Chet Baker in 1957 after having his New York musician’s license revoked as a result of a drug conviction.

There he collaborated with saxophonist Harold Land, but he was not happy and returned to New York in 1961 and began playing with Philly Joe Jones’ quintet.

He released four albums that year: “Here’s Hope!”, “High Hope!”, “Homecoming!”, and “Hopeful.”

His 1963 LP “Sounds from Rikers Island” was comprised of two sessions recorded before and after his incarceration in the prison on a drug conviction.

Plagued by a continuing heroin dependency and declining health, Elmo performed less frequently.

After initially being hospitalized for pneumonia, Elmo Hope died from a heart attack on May 19, 1967.

Recorded by the “Elmo Hope Trio” in Hackensack, New Jersey on June 18, 1953.


Elmo Hope, piano
Percy Heath, bass
“Philly Joe” Jones, drums