Monday, February 24, 2020

Masaomi Kondo & The Freedom Unity - 1971 - Hitoribochi no Heya

Masaomi Kondo & The Freedom Unity 
1971
Hitoribochi no Heya


01. ツタ (Ivy)
02. オリーブ (Olive)
03. キャベツ (Cabbage)
04. サボテン (Cactus)
05. マンドラゴラ (Mandragora)
06. バイバブ (Baobab)

Masaomi Kondo - vocals
Masahiko Satoh - piano, electric piano, arrangements
Takeru Muraoka - sax
Hiroshi Suzuki- trombone
Kiyoshi Sugimoto - guitar
Masaoki Terakawa - electric bass
Akira Ishikawa - drums
Michio Yamagami - lyrics


Kondo Masaomi is a well know Japanese actor who made this one-off LP in 1971. He raps away on 6 tracks about various plant species such as the Mandragora, breathing out an endangered atmosphere that borders at times on sheer anarchy and agitation. He ain’t no singer, by far but recites his texts in an distraught, frenzied, well-controlled and even calm fashion, gliding on the funky psychedelic groovy airwaves that his backing band – the Freedom Unity – churns out in an addictive fashion. The Freedom Unity on this occasion consisted out some of the finest musicians to be on the scene and included heavyweight players such as Sato Masahiko (piano); Ishikawa Akira (drums – Uganda etc); Sugimoto Kiyoshi (guitar – Count Buffaloos, Hino Hideshi Group, Rock Communication, etc), Terakawa Masaoki (bass – Love Live Life + 1, Ishikawa Akira & Count Buffaloos, Dema), Muraoka Takeru (Sax – Uganda, Count Buffaloos, Love Live Life +1, Dema) and Suzuki Hiroshi (Trumpet – various line-ups of Freedom Unity). The music they bring forth ranges from jazz, free jazz, psychedelic groovy acidic jams, jazz rock and fuses neatly with Kondo Masaomi’s raps, making it a perfect unison that resembles at times the musical greatness of Innocent Canon. It is funky, jazzy, psychedelic, groovy and intoxicatingly hip shaking all at the same time. A true amalgamation and genre-crossing disc, hybrid like for some reason only Japanese records seem to pull off without loosing face. This sole recording by Kondo is largely unknown outside this island here but it is regarded and revered as a great cult item and upon spinning this disc it is easy to understand why. It just has all the right ingredients: funky bass lines, killer guitar exploits, butt-shaking jazzy vibes, rare groove spiritual like rhythms, shrinking sax insertions, fuzzy wah-wah action, crazy raps etc, all executed by top level musicians. Magical slide out of 1971, shedding another light on Japans acidic free psychedelic moves and shakes.

Killer Japanese funky psychedelic masterpiece that sounds like Innocent Canon. Kondo Masaomi is a well know Japanese actor who made this one-off LP in 1971. He raps away on 6 tracks about various plant species such as the Mandragora, breathing out an endangered atmosphere that borders at times on sheer anarchy and agitation. He ain’t no singer, by far but recites his texts in an distraught, frenzied, well-controlled and even calm fashion, gliding on the funky psychedelic groovy airwaves that his backing band – the Freedom Unity – churns out in an addictive fashion. The Freedom Unity on this occasion consisted out some of the finest musicians to be on the scene and included heavyweight players such as Sato Masahiko (piano); Ishikawa Akira (drums – Uganda etc); Sugimoto Kiyoshi (guitar – Count Buffaloos, Hino Hideshi Group, Rock Communication, etc), Terakawa Masaoki (bass – Love Live Life + 1, Ishikawa Akira & Count Buffaloos, Dema), Muraoka Takeru (Sax - Uganda, Count Buffaloos, Love Live Life +1, Dema) and Suzuki Hiroshi (Trumpet – various line-ups of Freedom Unity). The music they bring forth ranges from jazz, free jazz, psychedelic groovy acidic jams, jazz rock and fuses neatly with Kondo Masaomi’s raps, making it a perfect unison that resembles at times the musical greatness of Innocent Canon. It is funky, jazzy, psychedelic, groovy and intoxicatingly hip shaking all at the same time. A true amalgamation and genre-crossing disc, hybrid like for some reason only Japanese records seem to pull off without loosing face. This sole recording by Kondo is largely unknown outside this island here but it is regarded and revered as a great cult item and upon spinning this disc it is easy to understand why. It just has all the right ingredients: funky bass lines, killer guitar exploits, butt-shaking jazzy vibes, rare groove spiritual like rhythms, shrinking sax insertions, fuzzy wah-wah action, crazy raps etc, all executed by top level musicians. Magical slide out of 1971, shedding another light on Japans acidic free psychedelic moves and shakes. Largely undetected but bound to be a huge crowd pleaser once this discs intoxicating fumes reach foreign shores. Highest recommendation.

Sammy & Freedom Unity - 1971 - Salute To Soul

Sammy & Freedom Unity 
1971
Salute To Soul


01. The House Of The Rising Sun 5:32
02. Summertime 4:08
03. What Am I Living For 3:19
04. Trouble Blues 3:22
05. I Love You More Than You'll Ever Know 5:45
06. St. James Infirmary 3:42
07. Nobody's Fault But Mine 2:43
08. Willow Weep For Me 4:07
09. See See Rider 3:58
10. I Want A Little Sugar In My Bowl 2:25
11. Hey Jude 4:38

Hiromasa Suzuki: Keyboards
Kunimitsu Inaba: Bass
Takeru Muraoka: Sax
Akira Ishikawa: Drums
Hiroshi Suzuki: Trombone
Sammy: Vocals


"Salute To Soul" is a duet album by the jazz quintet "Freedom Unity" introducing Sammy featuring Hiromasa Suzuki (keys), Kunimitsu Inaba (b), Takeru Muraoka (sax), Akira Ishikawa (ds) & Hiroshi Suzuki (tb). Sammy is the pseudonym of Masami Chino, a versatile soul-rock songstress, the japanese counterpart of Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Mostly actives during the seventies, Sammy recorded another album with the group, "Dynamic Rock" feat. the Singers Three, collaborated with saxophonist Jiro Inagaki & his Soul Media on two albums ("Wandering Birds", "Woman Robinson Crusoe-Rock Steady") and with the Akira Ishikawa's Count Buffalos on "Soul & Soul". From Jazz to Soul passing by psychedelic rock, Sammy revisits the classics of british and american rock (Nobody's Fault But Mine, See See Rider) including jazz standards (St. James Infirmary, Willow Weep For Me, Summertime). All songs arranged by Hiromasa Suzuki.

The Freedom Unity / Sammy /Singers Three - 1971 - Dynamic Rock

The Freedom Unity / Sammy /Singers Three
1971 
Dynamic Rock


01. Proud Mary
02. 25 Or 6 To 4
03. Someday
04. Smiling Phases
05. Free
06. Hi-De-Ho
07. Lucrecia Macevil
08. Fire And Rain

Baritone Saxophone – Shunzo Sunahara
Bass Trombone – Takeshi Aoki
Chorus – Singers Three
Drums – Akira Ishikawa
Electric Bass – Masaoki Terakawa
Electric Guitar – Kimio Mizutani
Lead Vocals – Sammy
Organ – Hiro Yanagida
Percussion – Masami Kawahara
Piano, Electric Piano – Hiromasa Suzuki
Tenor Saxophone – Kosuke Ichihara
Tenor Saxophone, Soprano Saxophone – Takeru Muraoka
Trombone – Teruhiko Kataoka
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Koji Hatori


Sammy is the pseudonym of Masami Chino, prolific japanese female rock singer from Soul to Psychedelic rock who was active in the seventies. She sings it well known Jazz, Pop, Rock, Soul, Rhythm & Blues from british and american covers song and jazz standards (her voice tone can be situated between Janis Joplin and Grace Slick). Introduced in the japanese jazz rock scene, she started to work with the legendary Freedom Unity (a jazz quartet formed by Hiromasa Suzuki and Akira Ishikawa) and collaborated with Jiro Inagaki on several albums as Wandering Birds (1971). Later, she also worked with Akira Ishikawa’ Count Buffalo band for Soul & Soul (1972). It’s the second collaboration with The Freedom Unity, after Dynamic Rock (1971), the group is surrounded by a string section plus additional guitarist (Kimio Mizutani) and arranged by Hiromasa Suzuki.

Yet another album of psychedelic-infused cover tunes, that was all the rage in Japan in the early 70s. I found the Chicago covers '25 or 6 to 4’ and 'Free’ to be the highlights here, with tight horn charts and Kimio Mizutani (on what appears to be his 2,000th recording in 1971) doing his best rendition of Terry Kath. On the other hand, the opening track is Creedence Clearwater Revival’s 'Proud Mary’. Oh you haven’t lived until you’ve heard 'Lor-rin…. Lor-rin…. Lorrin on a Liver’.
Overall the album is fun - perhaps fun-ny at times - and worth at least one listen

The Freedom Unity - 1971 - Down by the Naked City

The Freedom Unity 
1971
Down by the Naked City


01. Down By The Naked City (28:37)
The Doors Of Perception
The Dancing Protoplasm
02. The Equator 8:40
03. The Old Castle 8:18
04. Light Up 7:35

Akira Ishikawa (drums)
Hiromasa Suzuki (electric piano)
Hiroshi Suzuki (trombone)
Kunimitsu Inaba (double bass)
Takeru Muraoka (tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone)



Iconic avant-garde masterpiece from the legendary jazz supergroup featuring keyboardist Hiromasa "Colgen" Suzuki, saxophonist Takeru Muraoka, bassist Kunimitsu Inaba, trombonist Hiroshi Suzuki and drummer Akira Ishikawa. The group was formed by all-stars japanese jazz musicians, members of Terumasa Hino Quintet, Count Buffalos & The Soul Media, starting with "Something" in 1970 (highlighting saxophonist Takeru Muraoka), recorded "Salute To Soul" & "Dynamic Rock" featuring japanese rock songstress Masami Chino (Sammy) in 1971, and Hiroshi Suzuki's album "Cat" released in 1975. The album opens on the title-track, an extended modal suite over 23 minutes played in two parts ("The Doors Of Perception" & "The Dancing Protoplasm"), composed by Hiroshi Suzuki, follow by "The Equator", "The Old Castle" & the Muraoka's original composition, "Light Up". All tracks arranged by Hiromasa Suzuki.

Today, we're beginning with an excellent jazz fusion record from Japan. The Freedom Unity was strung together by Hiromasa Suzuki in the early 70s, and he turned this troupe of Japanese jazz musicians into a flat-out revolutionary supergroup - this is seriously fantastic stuff.
It's some of the earliest fusion to ever surface out of Japan, dating to 1971, and counts for the group's second full-length. Where Hiromasa shines on the electric piano, Kunimitsu Inaba matches with some impeccable basslines that charge the pacing to its full capacity. Drummer Akira Ishikawa pins down the energetic stream with a firm-yet-precise grip, and the horns provide the gleam of light streaming from some of the most energetic jazz I've heard. The first track in particular is an endless astronomic navigation that's both clean and executed. Though it lasts for the length of the A-side, one can't help but thirst for more. Neither quality nor intensity diminish on Side B, leaving me with one question as the album wraps up - where do I find their first album, Something?
In any case, it's splendid early fusion that treads the space of the more avant-garde stuff with an understandable injection of electric Miles Davis influence. This is definitely the kind of fusion that can appeal to both the jazz novice and the jazz connoisseur, and I warmly recommend its entrance into your ears.

Echoes of early Weather Report and Miles from '69 can be heard on the first 20+ minute piece. It starts off really well, but gradually ascends into a more self-indulgent mode of overly long dissonant noodling that's hardly an eye-opening moment. Some of the standards such as the "The Old Castle" appeal to me a bit more and therefore somewhat salvage the album. The "avant-gardisms" of the first track were executed more coherently on Weather Report's albums.

The Freedom Unity Featuring Takeru Muraoka - 1971 - Something / Freedom Unity First

The Freedom Unity Featuring Takeru Muraoka 
1971
Something / Freedom Unity First


01. Capricorn 10:58
02. Something 5:38
03. On A Sunny Day 9:44
04. Some Other Night 9:33
05. Blue Soul 4:55
06. Peaceful Planet 11:41

Bass – Kunimitsu Inaba
Drums – Akira Ishikawa
Electric Piano – Hiromasa Suzuki
Tenor Saxophone – Takeru Muraoka
Trombone – Hiroshi Suzuki

Recorded at Toshiba 1st Studio, 18, 26 October '70.


A great bit of fusion from the start of the 70s – kind of a bridge between the late 60s "groovy" Japanese jazz, and some of the freer-thinking work to come! The group features excellent tenor from Takeru Muraoka, who plays with kind of a sharp edge that almost echoes more of the alto and soprano work of the generation – mixed with keyboards from Hiromasa Suzuki – who's plenty great on electric piano! Hiroshi Suzuki plays trombone, and the set's got some nice funky drums from Akira Ishikawa – who's always a treat. Overall, the set often has some of the same funky characteristics as some of the best late 60s electric jazz sets on Liberty Records in the US

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Sadowski - 1979 - Swing Party

Sadowski
1979
Swing Party



01. Swing Party 7:25
02. Tenderly 5:13
03. Wieczorne Wspomnienie 3:15
04. Mayaka Y 4:15
05. Swing Medley (8:25)
Honey Suckle Rose
Ain't She Sweet
I've Found A New Baby
06. Softly 4:45
07. Różki Dla Maruszki 5:22

Electric Piano, Organ – Krzysztof Sadowski
Guitar – Tomasz Jaśkiewicz


With today’s internet, different regions of the jazz world are so well connected that once obvious regional differences in music are slowly disappearing. Its just too easy for artists all around the world to keep up with what’s happening in NYC, or London or Tokyo, or anywhere else with any kind of jazz scene. Such was not the case in the late 70s, particularly in Communist controlled countries such as Poland, where the latest musical trends from NYC were not as important as daily survival and trying to duck the watchful eye of ‘the authorities’. In 1979, much of the jazz world was mired in fuzak, while the ‘new lion’ movement, and a new downtown NY scene were just around the corner. None of these latest trends were happening in culturally cut-off Poland, where jazz musicians operated without the restrictions of following the latest trends from the US. All of this background helps explain this somewhat ‘odd for 79’ “Swing Party” album by Poland’s Krzysztof Sadowski, on which Sadowski plays old school swing/hard bop/soul jazz with a full stop organ sound that recalls lounge music of the 1950s. It’s a well made and spirited album, but if it had come out in the states in 79, it would have been a complete oddity, which is of course is not necessarily a bad thing.

Long winded cultural explanations aside, “Swing Party” is a solid piece of organ based hard bop groove that recalls pre-Jimmy Smith organists such as Wild Bill Davis and Doc Bagby. Not only is the music tastefully retro, but Sadowski uses a full ‘theatre’ sound on his Hammond, a sound that had disappeared from the international jazz scene a couple decades earlier, replaced by the leaner sound of Jimmy Smith and his many followers. Sadowski is aided on here by four powerful tenor soloists whose soloing styles range from bluesy Sonny Stitt, to more ‘outside’ Coltrane influenced flights. The tunes range from well known standards such as “Tenderly” and “Honey Suckle Rose”, to some neo-bop originals by Sadowski.

If you enjoy 1950s Hammond organ based jazz, this record will not disappoint, Sadowski’s playing is energetic, and the same can be said for his four tenors, all of whom sound like they deserved more recognition outside of Poland. The only thing that will let on that this record was actually recorded in 1979 is the recording date marked on the outside liner notes.

Krzysztof Sadowski And His Group - 1975 - Three Thousands Points

Krzysztof Sadowski And His Group 
1975 
Three Thousands Points



01. Suita Trzy Tysiące = Suite Of Three Thousand 21:36
02. Sorcery 6:04
03. Ten Nasz Zwyczajny Świat (Cz. I I III) = Our Common World 10:00
04. Syrinx 3:46

Bass Guitar – Wojciech Bruślik
Congas – Andrzej Zieliński (5) (tracks: A)
Congas, Percussion – Bożena Bruszewska (tracks: B1 to B3)
Drums – Wojciech Morawski (tracks: B1 to B3), Zbigniew Kitliński (tracks: A)
Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar – Winicjusz Chróst (tracks: B1 to B3)
Flute [El. Flute] – Liliana Urbańska (tracks: A)
Flute, Vocals, Percussion – Liliana Urbańska (tracks: B1 to B3)
Organ [Hammond], Electronics [Ring Modulator], Electric Piano [Fender Piano], Voice – Krzysztof Sadowski
Soprano Saxophone – Veselin Nikolov (tracks: A)
Soprano Saxophone, Tenor Saxophone – Tomasz Szukalski (tracks: B1 to B3)
Notes
Side A - Recorded at Polish Radio Studio 28.10.1974 at XVII International Jazz Festival JAZZ JAMBOREE 74.
Side B - Recorded at Warsaw's Philharmonic Hall 17-18.06.1975



Third album by Polish Jazz keyboardist / composer Krzysztof Sadowski recorded with an ensemble called Organ Group, which also included flautist / vocalist Liliana Urbanska, saxophonists Vesselin Nikolov and Tomasz Szukalski, guitarist Winicjusz Chrost, bass guitarist Wojciech Bruslik, drummers Zbigniew Kitlinski and Wojciech Morawski and finally percussionists Andrzej Zielinski and Bozena Bruszewska. The reason for the long lineup is the fact that the album was recorded during two separate sessions with two different lineups.

This album was released at the time as part of the legendary "Polish Jazz" series (as Vol.47) and included originally only four tracks, the first of which gave the album its title and was a twenty one minutes long suite originally found on side A of the LP. The three tracks on side B were shorter and spanned between three to nine minutes in duration. Two of the compositions were originals, both composed by Sadowski; one was a Keith Jarrett tune and one was a Classical piece. This remastered reissue adds three bonus tracks recorded at the Polish Radio.

The music on this album shows Sadowski at full swing as a Jazz-Rock Fusion musician, firmly based in the Fusion idiom, which was pretty well established by then both on the Polish scene and abroad. He expands his arsenal and uses electric piano and early synthesizer (ring modulator) gadgets. The flute parts are more daring and the vocalese more developed, clearly following the work of Urszula Dudziak. Nikolov adds a tinge of Balkan spice and Szukalski blows away like only he could, touching upon Free at times. The rhythmic support is very Rock oriented and the overall sound and feel of the music resembles to some extent the best Fusion ensembles active in the West but maintains an East European identity both harmonically and melodically.

In retrospect the album is a great document of the time at which it was recorded, proving that in spite of the relative separation from what was happing beyond the Iron Curtain, Polish Jazz was responding rapidly to the changes in the Jazz idiom, often with ferocity and ingenuity, which were impossible to hold back by the political regime. The grammar mistake in the English version of the title (preserved for historic consistency) is a nice reminder of Socialist bureaucracy (an insider's joke).

As usual it is my duty to thank GAD Records for taking care of the Polish Jazz heritage, who is sadly a lonely rider on that trail. This superb music definitely needs to be fondly remembered and discovered by new generations!

Super album, possibly one of the best I've heard in the Polish Jazz series thus far.
Here the organist totally embraces the new freedom offered by the Jazz Rock and Jazz Fusion idioms, and offers a muscular live set which is bursting with the kind of boundless creativity that's usually associated with the Krautjazz scene of the early 1970's (Wolfgang Dauner's Et Cetera, Exmagma and the likes) - and the resulting album is worlds apart from his Hammond-led, borderline easy listening 1970 set. Great use of electronic gizmos and probing phallic bass guitar riffing in long tracks where Sadowski and his men are given plenty of space to, you know, exxxploooore.. Add to all this a fantastic recording sound - clear, physically present and very lively. I just wish that this album would have been recorded by a bunch of German unknowns - so that, at least, people would know it and the album would get the love it deserves.

Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego - 1972 - Na Kosmodromie

Grupa Organowa Krzysztofa Sadowskiego 
1972 
Na Kosmodromie



01. Na Kosmodromie = On The Cosmodrome
02. Alpha Centauri
03. Wam Jest Do Śmiechu, Mnie Nie = You Feel Like Laughing But I Don't
04. Straight Life
05. Dalarna
06. Blues X

Alto Saxophone [Alto Sax], Piano – Włodzimierz Nahorny
Bass Guitar – Paweł Dąbrowski
Congas [Conga] – Józef Gawrych
Drums – Tomasz Butowtt
Organ [Hammond] – Krzysztof Sadowski
Trumpet – Eddie Engels
Vocals, Flute – Liliana Urbańska

Recorded at 03.1972, Warszawa Polskie Nagrania


Second solo album by Polish Jazz keyboardist / composer Krzysztof Sadowski recorded with an ensemble called Organ Group, which also included flautist / vocalist Liliana Urbanska, Dutch trumpeter Eddie Engels, saxophonist Wlodzimierz Nahorny, bass guitarist Pawel Dabrowski, drummer Tomasz Butowtt and congas player Jozef Gawrych.

This album was not released at the time as part of the legendary "Polish Jazz" series, for reasons that are way beyond the scope of this text. The original album included only six tracks, the first of which gave the album its title and was a twenty minutes long six parts suite originally found on side A of the LP. The five tracks on side B were all much shorter. All the compositions were originals, four composed by Sadowski and one each by Nahorny and Engels. This remastered reissue adds three bonus tracks recorded at the Polish Radio.

By the time this album was released the Polish Jazz scene was in a state of upheaval, torn between two extremes: Free Jazz on one side and Jazz-Rock Fusion on the other. Strangely this album presents a bit of both, since although conceptually belonging to the Jazz-Rock Fusion genre it features a few Free Form solos. Obviously Sadowski was shifting his organ playing stylistics from the traditional influences (Jimmy Smith) towards (then) contemporary keyboard approach represented by Herbie Hancock or Weather Report's Joe Zawinul. The use of vocalese, which was one of the trademarks of Polish Jazz at the time, utilized extensively by Urszula Dudziak in Michal Urbaniak's ensemble, is only one of the parallels between these two pioneering Fusion bands active at the time.

The space exploration, which seems a bit strange as a subject matter of a Jazz album, was at the time one of the main pillars of the Socialist propaganda, which excitedly participated in the space race between USSR and USA, with an obvious winning side. Picking such a subject increased of course significantly the possibility to have one's music released by the State controlled solitary record company in existence at the time in Poland (Polskie Nagrania).

In retrospect the album is a great document of the time at which it was recorded, proving that in spite of the relative separation from what was happing beyond the Iron Curtain, Polish Jazz was responding rapidly to the changes in the Jazz idiom, often with ferocity and ingenuity, which were impossible to hold back by the political regime.

As usual it is my duty to thank GAD Records for taking care of the Polish Jazz heritage, who is sadly a lonely rider on that trail. This superb music definitely needs to be fondly remembered and discovered by new generations!

Krzysztof Sadowski - 1970 - Krzysztof Sadowski And His Hammond Organ

Krzysztof Sadowski 
1970
Krzysztof Sadowski And His Hammond Organ



01. Z Malej Chmury Duzy Deszcz / Heavy Rain From A Little Cloud [2:57]
02. Impressions Of The Beatles [8:30]
   a) With A Little Help From My Friends
   b) Yesterday
   c) A Hard Day's Night
03. Kolyszac Sie / Swinging [3:39]
04. Skad My To Znamy / Something Familliar [2:25]
05. Blues Z Moralem / Don't Count On Neal [4:35]
06. Ballada Z Filmu 'Rosemary's Baby' / Main Theme From 'Rosemary's Baby' [4:29]
07. Punkt Docelowy / Aim Point [4:33]
08. Za Pare Dziekow / For Thanks [4:38]

Polish Jazz vol. 21
Recorded in Warsaw, January 1970
Recording director: Wojciech Pietowski
Recording engineer: Halina Jastrzebska-Marciszewska

Krzysztof Sadowski - Hammond Organ (mod. M-120)
Andrzej Dabrowski - drums (1-4)

Jazz Studio Orchestra of the Polish Radio (5-8):
Jan 'Ptaszyn' Wroblewski - leader
Franciszek Kowalski - trumpet
Jozef Debek - trumpet
Jozef Grabarski - trumpet
Franciszek Gorkiewicz - trumpet
Pankracy Zdzitowiecki - trombone
Andrzej Piela - trombone
Stanislaw Kowalczyk - trombone
Kazimierz Morawski - trombone
Wladyslaw Zurkowski - saxophone
Zdzislaw Przybyszewski - saxophone
Albert Pradella - saxophone
Janusz Muniak - saxophone
Bronislaw Suchanek - bass
Janusz Stefanski - drums


Krzysztof Sadowski born in Warsaw, Poland December 15, 1936. He studied piano for eleven years while at school and after graduating from the Warsaw Institute of Technology took up a career in jazz (1957). In the early 1960s he played and recorded with Zbigniew Namyslowski's Jazz Rockers and Jan Wróblewski's Jazz Outsiders (both 1961-2), and worked with Andrzej Kurylewicz and the Swingtet led by the alto saxophonist Jerzy Matuszkiewicz. He achieved considerable success with his own group Bossa Nova Combo (from 1963), with which he toured the USSR (1965) and Scandinavia (1967).

In 1967, influenced by Jimmy Smith, he took up the Hammond organ and formed a hard-bop ensemble, the Organ Group. He also toured and recorded with his wife, the pop singer and flutist Liliana Urbanska. Sadowski has composed many popular hits in Poland, as well as music for films, theater, radio, and television, and two suites, On the Cosmodrome (recorded on Na Kosmodromie, 1972, Muza 7048) and Our Common World. Long time activist and executive of Polish Jazz Society.
The late 1960's ice rink feel of the first side is absolutely addictive, and the big payoff here. And that Beatles medley is (against all odds) actually very cool. Usually I tend to dislike that sort of thing, but imagine : a Beatles medley played on a cranky Hammond organ and a drum kit (only), recorded live with plenty of atmosphere and cool natural reverb to it.. and it almost sounds like ELP doing it, if Keith Emerson were actually blind drunk.. cracking !

Tons of quirkiness to savour all over the LP (although the second (jazzier) side isn't quite as great as the first), this is the kind of "borderline easy listening" stuff that's actually really quite nice.
This is the first album on the legendary Polish Jazz series, which is dedicated to the Hammond organ, the godfather of the electronic keyboards and probably the most significant new instrument, which dominated Jazz and Progressive Rock in the late 1960s and early 1970s (although available since the 1930s). Keyboardist Krzysztof Sadowski belongs to the first post WWII generation of Polish Jazz musicians, debuting in the 1950s and active on the local scene for many years. He combined his love of Jazz and Rock, playing with the leading ensembles of both genres with equal dedication and success. This album presents his Hammond organ performances in two different environments: Side A of the original LP captures him accompanied just by drummer Andrzej Dabrowski and the duo moves through a Rocky set, which includes a Beatles medley. Side B finds him accompanied by the Polish Radio Jazz Studio Orchestra, led by saxophonist / composer Jan "Ptaszyn" Wroblewski and featuring top Polish Jazz players, among them saxophonist Janusz Muniak, bassist Bronislaw Suchanek, drummer Janusz Stefanski and many others. This set is much closer to Jazz and features a beautiful version of Krzysztof Komeda's ballad from "Rosemary's Baby".

Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1964 - 'S Make It

The Jazz Messengers
1964
'S Make It


01. Faith 3:42
02. 'S Make It 5:28
03. Waltz For Ruth 5:44
04. One For Gamal 3:38
05. Little Hughie 5:33
06. Olympia 5:48
07. Lament For Stacy 5:35

Bass – Victor Sproles
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – John Hicks
Tenor Saxophone – John Gilmore
Trombone – Curtis Dubois Fuller
Trumpet – Lee Morgan


Art Blakey never disappoints, and this album is as good as it gets. Every song has a strong drive to it and I can't think of a jazz album that strikes me as having more of a sense of fun.

The compositions here take front seat to improvisation, which isn't to say there isn't first rate improv going on as well. Curtis Fuller's trombone work, especially, is first rate. Prior to this album I'd have say I didn't like trombone solos - they often sound a little stiff and awkward. Not from Mr. Fuller!

The only problem with this album is that this is the only release with this lineup (including, unless I am mistaken, live releases) so there's nowhere else to go to find more.


This echoes the sentiment of the other reviews on here - I was expecting a lot from this side, especially because of its high praise from critics and it being the only session by this line-up - but it fell short. A band with Lee Morgan, John Gilmore, Curtis Fuller, John Hicks, and Victor Sproles being powered by Blakey could hit a really powerful groove, but everyone just sounds bored.

The album is essentially a collection of boogaloos and blues. It may have sounded hip at the time because this was the "Sidewinder era," when everyone was playing countless boogaloo imitations of Morgan's hit tune, but to the modern listener it sounds tired. I even hear that Lee Morgan left Blakey a second time because he was tired of the leader calling The Sidewinder so much!

There are bright spots. Gilmore sounds really unique; it's a pity the tenor player didn't ever lead his own session. John Hicks sounds like an aggressive yet slick version of McCoy Tyner and plays some great solos. But the material can only provide so much inspiration and the result is that every track ends up sounding pretty samey.

Try to track down the bootleg/video of this band (minus Fuller) playing in London - much more creativity in the house on that day.

The Jazz Messengers - 1964 - The Freedom Rider

The Jazz Messengers
1964
The Freedom Rider



01. Tell It Like It Is 7:53
02. The Freedom Rider 7:25
03. El Toro 6:20
04. Petty Larceny 6:14
05. Blue Lace 5:59
06. Uptight 6:12
07. Pisces 6:52
08. Blue Ching 6:43

Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Lee Morgan

Recorded on February 12 (tracks 7-8), February 18 (track 4), and May 27, 1961 (tracks 1-3, 5-6) at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Tracks 1-5 originally issued as Blue Note BST 84156.
Tracks 6-8 originally issued on the Japanese Blue Note album "Pisces".




On May 27, 1961, Art Blakey sat down at the drumkit in his second home of sorts, the most important recording studio in jazz history, engineer Rudy Van Gelder’s high-ceilinged marvel in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. After a spirited shuffle through a blues by Wayne Shorter, joined by one of jazz’s hall-of-fame working groups — Shorter, tenor saxophone; Lee Morgan, trumpet; Bobby Timmons, piano; Jymie Merritt, bass — Blakey started in on a suite-like, seven-and-a-half-minute drum solo. Throughout what would become “The Freedom Rider,” the title track to an undervalued LP for Blue Note Records, he keeps time for himself with a signature covert snip of the hi-hat. That bedrock in place, Blakey tells the remainder of his story with surging rolls and dynamic patterns and agitated crashes that combine to underscore a triptych of influences: swing-era drum heroes like Big Sid Catlett and Chick Webb, the percussive traditions of Latin America, and the African rhythms he absorbed during his time on the continent in the late ’40s.

If what musicians and critics call polyrhythmic can be defined as drumming that grants the kit the dimensions of an orchestra, then “The Freedom Rider” should be considered Blakey’s pièce de résistance. As his pioneering drum colleague Max Roach told the New York Times in 1990, following Blakey’s death at age 71, “Art was the perhaps the best at maintaining independence with all four limbs. He was doing it before anybody was.”

With this solo tour de force, Blakey steps onto conceptual terrain. It places him in a tradition of drummers brave enough to track sans accompaniment, a lineage including Footnotes to Jazz, Vol. 1: Baby Dodds Talking and Drum Solos, Roach’s Drums Unlimited, Tony Williams’ “Some Hip Drum Shit,” Paul Motian’s “Ch’i Energie” and more. Its title, invoking a civil-rights gambit still in progress when the work was recorded, positions it under the banner of jazz-as-protest, a heritage that begins with the genre’s African-African work-song roots and continues through every stage of its development. (A list of related recordings could pack out the remainder of this space, but to name a few: Louis Armstrong’s “Black and Blue,” Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” Sonny Rollins’ Freedom Suite, We Insist!, Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, John Coltrane’s “Alabama,” Mingus’ “Fables of Faubus,” Archie Shepp’s Attica Blues, and “Malcolm, Malcolm—Semper Malcolm,” Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam,” the music of Gary Bartz’s NTU Troop, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s “K.K.P.D.” …)

The majority of The Freedom Rider was captured on that May date, the quintet’s final studio session, toward the close of a month that stands among the most crucial in the timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement. Following decisions including 1960’s Boynton v. Virginia and 1946’s Morgan v. Virginia, the Supreme Court had guaranteed as federal law that segregation on commercial interstate buses and in interstate terminal restaurants and facilities was unconstitutional. But many Southern states, still in the throes of Jim Crow and under the rule of white segregationists, refused to enforce these decisions. On May 4, seven African-American and six white activists boarded public buses in Washington, D.C., bound for Louisiana. These Freedom Rides, which would travel deeper into the South than a previous effort in the ’40s, provoked horrendous violence over the ensuing summer and fall but also gained hundreds of participants and countless supporters across the nation. Built upon a strategy of nonviolent protest, the movement garnered tremendous media coverage that generated new legislation and orders of enforcement.

Still, rosy retrospection should never underestimate the peril the Freedom Riders faced down. On Mother’s Day, May 14, a throng including Klansmen who were abetted by the police attacked the Riders in Anniston, Alabama, and firebombed one of the buses. More mob violence followed in Birmingham and Montgomery. In the latter town, after the Nashville Student Movement had formed the cause’s second generation, thousands of segregationists rioted outside of a Baptist church hosting a tribute to the Riders that included Martin Luther King. On May 24, just three days before Blakey would record his solo, Riders were arrested in Jackson, Mississippi, after attempting to use whites-only facilities. Abiding by the movement’s “Jail No Bail” mantra, hundreds of Riders eventually occupied the notorious Parchman Farm.

Blakey certainly had good reason to support the Riders via his four-limbed homage. An orphan from Pittsburgh, he cut his teeth early on as a pianist but had switched to drums in time for professional experience with Mary Lou Williams and Fletcher Henderson’s band. In the early to mid-’40s, while on the road with Henderson in Georgia, he was beaten by police in a race-related incident — so viciously, in fact, that surgery was necessary and a steel plate was placed in the drummer’s head. He retreated north, to a steady gig in Boston. Later that decade, during his transformative journey to Africa, Blakey would become immersed in Islam and take on the moniker Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, which yielded his nickname Bu.

Listening back to Blakey’s soliloquy with this context brings on a tide of evocations: the cycling Greyhound and Trailways tires in those tom and snare rolls; the taunts and tossed rocks and other acts of hate in those single strokes and cymbal crashes; those moments when anxiety became action, represented by Blakey’s shifts from single drums to an Afro-Cuban-ish groove spread throughout the kit. And, at various points, the uncertainty that comes with stillness. More than anything, however, “The Freedom Rider” is an exercise in resilience. As Nat Hentoff wrote in the LP’s original notes: “[A]rt Blakey conjures up the whirlpool of emotions at that time — the winds of change sweeping the country, the resistance to that change, and the pervasive conviction of the Freedom Riders that ‘We Shall Not Be Moved.’”

It’s possible to speak about Art Blakey as one of jazz’s monumental figures without mentioning the drums. You might talk about how few artists have represented a record label with the kind of ambassadorship that defined Blakey’s relationship with Blue Note. Although he recorded for many labels in his career, Blakey steered some of Blue Note’s finest bands and contributed a stack of its best-loved recordings as a leader and sideman. In the process, he designed the label’s first signature sound, the more patient, blues-soaked bop derivation called hard bop.

He also nurtured generations of major-league jazz musicians through his ever-shifting working group, the Jazz Messengers, where he encouraged his young musicians to write, just as he urged them to lead their own bands after they left. The chronology of the Jazz Messengers is a labyrinth of one worthy lineup tweak after the next, but its proper story begins in the ’50s, when Blakey began guiding a potently swinging, gospel-infused collective with the pianist Horace Silver. After his break with Silver, the drummer helmed a robust quintet, highlighted by Jackie McLean on alto saxophone, that worked fruitfully until 1958, when it dissolved and Blakey tapped Morgan, Timmons, Merritt and the tenorman Benny Golson, young masters who’d developed on the Philadelphia scene. In October of ’58, this lineup recorded Moanin’, which, touting a few future standards — Timmons’ title cut, Golson’s “Blues March” and “Along Came Betty” — became Blakey’s (and arguably Blue Note’s) flagship album. Its “The Drum Thunder Suite” features rhythmic language that was distilled further on “The Freedom Rider.”

Golson would split and form the Jazztet in 1959 with trumpeter Art Farmer. The saxophonist’s replacement, Hank Mobley, missed a gig at a Canadian festival, presenting Morgan with an opportunity to convince Blakey to hire his brilliant friend, Wayne Shorter, a recently discharged army man who was also appearing at the fest, in trumpeter Maynard Ferguson’s big band. Introductions were made, and not long after, Blakey placed a soothsaying call to Ferguson: “Wayne is a fighter pilot stuck in a big band!” he said. Shorter was relieved of his duties.

In Shorter, 27 at the time The Freedom Rider was recorded, Blakey, then 41, employed perhaps the most influential jazz composer ever at the outset of his sly innovations. Working toward his heady mid-’60s, Shorter had begun personalizing the staple harmonic and formal elements of jazz composition, and the resultant music still gives off a weird, wonderful, funhouse-mirror effect, like hearing blues and bop in a reverie. His saxophone playing followed suit, in its effective blend of tonal and technical wonders with his willingness to sidestep easy harmonic answers. For his part, Morgan, 22, could probe and explore but also embodied the role of the consummate hard bopper, both as a writer and a player; his tunes and solos were pure bop-centered charisma, crafted and delivered with flawless rhythmic panache and no more virtuosity than was needed. Merritt, 35, had the innate sense of groove that allowed him to drop anchor next to Blakey, plus a lithe touch and theoretical know-how accrued in classical studies. Timmons, 25, despite his pigeonholed legacy as an R&B fan’s kind of jazzer and the composer of “Moanin’,” was a sage pianist right at home inside Shorter’s modernism.

This incarnation of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers gigged prolifically and spent seven days in the studio between March of 1960 and May of 1961, in addition to a live record date at Birdland in September of 1960. Over the years that embarrassment of riches has fed many Blue Note LPs, expanded reissues and box sets. The Freedom Rider was released in 1964, and aside from the title cut, its original pressing included two tunes apiece by Shorter and Morgan.

Shorter’s “Tell It Like It Is” is a headstrong shuffle-blues and an opportunity to hear Blakey have one hell of a good time leading his band. “Blow your horn!” he hollers at Morgan. “Tell it like it is!” he encourages Timmons, before reminding Merritt to “Walk! Walk! Walk! Walk!” “Alright!” he shouts as Shorter and Morgan re-enter with the theme — and how delightful it is to hear the saxophonist on a time-honored form, engaging in a stout and straightforward frontline kinship.

“El Toro,” another Shorter composition, is a 16-bar line with Latin ambiance, and it inches toward the furtive curveballs that would become his trademark. But mostly it’s a mid-to-uptempo swinger with fantastic blowing, not least from the saxophonist, who burns in Coltrane fashion during his opening solo, offering rapid-fire rising and falling lines that dive bomb toward low honks. Pushing beyond his bluesy rep, Timmons reveals more of his bop learning, and Blakey customizes the pianist’s accompaniment with snare and rim accents. (Listening closely to Blakey interact with and play to the soloist is always pure pleasure; also notice how seamlessly he shifts from groove to swing during this head.) Morgan, who trades eights with Shorter at the finish, proves in his choruses here and elsewhere that he used the trumpet’s high notes with more intelligence than pretty much anyone. For him, those alpine pitches were about lyricism and storytelling rather than ego.

The trumpeter’s two contributions guarantee The Freedom Rider’s sanctified rapture. As if cutting the dramatic intensity of the title cut and the stealthy smarts of “El Toro,” Morgan’s “Petty Larceny” is undeniable barroom jazz, an easy-shuffling blues with a hip melodic echo in the theme, spacious blowing and a nimble solo by Merritt. (It’s also the lone cut included here from the band’s February 18, 1961, session.) To close, “Blue Lace” swings in waltz time with strength but also impressive sensitivity.

Shorter would remain with Blakey until 1964, the same year he began changing jazz’s trajectory as a writer and player in Miles Davis’ Second Great Quintet. As a bandleader on Blue Note in ’64, he recorded three albums, Night Dreamer, JuJu, and Speak No Evil, that remain totems of the artful bebop branch called postbop. Morgan left the Messengers in 1961 and was replaced by the fearsomely virtuosic Freddie Hubbard, though he’d later return to Blakey’s fold. He created his own canon, mostly on Blue Note — LPs including The Sidewinder and, with Shorter, Search for the New Land — and died violently in 1972, gunned down by his common-law wife at the East Village haunt Slugs’ Saloon. Morgan was 33. Timmons also died young, in 1974 at 38 and, sadly, of cirrhosis brought on by substance abuse. Merritt, now in his 90’s, can reflect on gigs and sessions with Blakey, Roach, Golson, B.B. King, Sonny Clark and Chet Baker, in addition to his groundbreaking early use of the electric bass and his community-building efforts in Philadelphia.

Blakey would continue living his epic life of tutelage. At the time of this writing, the official website of the Art Blakey estate includes a list of 217 Messengers alumni, and it reads like a roadmap to the story of jazz in total. The ’50s and ’60s saw names like Golson, Hubbard, Mobley, McLean, Clifford Brown, Kenny Dorham, Johnny Griffin, Woody Shaw, and Cedar Walton join his camp. In the ’80s, Blakey taught the tenets of swing to a generation of impassioned, marketable men who would become known as the Young Lions: Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Donald Harrison Jr., Kenny Garrett, Benny Green and more. Still, he never fostered another small group as gifted and auspicious as the one he reared in 1960 and ’61.

The Jazz Messengers - 1963 - Ugetsu

The Jazz Messengers
1963
Ugetsu


01. One By One 6:17
02. Ugetsu 10:57
03. Time Off 4:54
04. Ping-Pong 8:05
05. I Didn't Know What Time It Was 6:28
06. On The Ginza 7:01
Bonus Tracks
07. Eva 5:53
08. The High Priest 5:22
09. Conception 5:15
10. The Theme 1:45

Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Cedar Walton
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard

Recorded "live" at Birdland, New York City; June 16, 1963.


Once again recorded live at Birdland, Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers gave yet another coup performance at this prestigious New York jazz club in June of 1963 which became another solid landmark hit. Released the same year by the Riverside label, they deeply impressed the audiences with another astounding set of first class performances, riveting solos, sharp originality, exhilarating virtuosity and outrageous swing. A band heralded as one of the top four line-ups Blakey have ever led, music specialist and jazz critic Neil Tessler wrote in the CD liner notes: “There’s something special about Art Blakey and his band live and this album is certainly no exception”, whom he pointed out. “That’s partly because this was the natural environment which these guys were working night after night in the clubs. There are certain things that can happen in a live recording that don’t always happen in the more artificial record-ing studio”. Right along with other iconic tracks featured, including Wayne Shorter’s One By One and On The Gina, Curtis Fuller’s Time Off and the title track--written by Cedar Walton, the live classic also features (as usual) a well-performed reindition on the standard ballad I Didn’t Know What Time It Was. Plus what you will even get on Ugetsu are four great bonus tracks, including Eva, George Sheering’s bebop classic Conception, Thelonious Monk’s The High Priest and Miles Davis’ ‘pre-electric’ grand finale song The Theme, where as they add to the finishing touch on this spellbinding live masterwork that definitely ranks as one of Blakey’s greatest and most honoured achievements.

The sextet with Fuller, Hubbard, Shorter, and Walton is my most favorite period of the Jazz Messengers. The ensemble sound is thick and diverse due to the mix of three different horns. The repertoire is strongly based on the compositions by the members, which are very well written. Blakey's drumming is thunderous, pushing forward the soloists. This recording captures the band in its top form in a live setting. A listener gets the feel for how the members interacted. Of the several albums from this period, I'd place this among the top three along with "Mosaic" and "Free For All". This is a must-have not only for Messenger fans, but for all Hard Bop fans.

Ugetsu, a 1963 live set from the original Birdland, finds Art Blakey & His Jazz Messengers at the peak of their powers with one of their strongest lineups. The group primarily recorded sessions for Alfred Lion's Blue Note label, but this Riverside date is as strong as any of their previous outings. Having acquired the services of trombonist Curtis Fuller in 1961, the Messengers' front line was its most robust ever, with Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard consistently turning in some of their best performances. Rounding out the rhythm section with Blakey are the equally powerful Reggie Workman and Cedar Walton. The Messengers' set list finds the majority of tunes written by musical director Wayne Shorter, as well as a few choice numbers from Curtis Fuller and Cedar Walton's title cut. The group is spurred on by a very receptive crowd, tempos and solos are spirited for the most part, and Blakey seems exceptionally energetic despite not performing a single extended solo himself. His between-song banter is equally entertaining. Overall, the group is precise, expressive, and swinging hard, delivering its message from the grandest platform of the time.

The Jazz Messengers - 1964 - Golden Boy

The Jazz Messengers 
1964
Golden Boy


01. Theme From Golden Boy 5:35
02. Yes I Can 5:25
03. Lorna's Here 5:09
04. This Is The Life 5:56
05. There's A Party 5:00
06. I Want To Be With You 4:03

Alto Saxophone – James Spaulding
Baritone Saxophone – Charles Davis
Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums – Art Blakey
French Horn – Julius Watkins
Producer – Jack Lewis
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Lee Morgan
Tuba – Bill Barber

Full title is Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers play selections from the new musical "Golden Boy"


Originally released in 1964, Golden Boy features drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers performing songs from the Lee Adams and Charles Strouse Broadway musical for which the album is titled. Based off the play, written by Clifford Odets and William Gibson, Golden Boy was a socially conscious musical about a Harlem prize-fighter trying to escape his working class roots. A somewhat obscure Blakey release, Golden Boy nonetheless features plenty of improvisatory, hard bop firepower.

The Jazz Messengers - 1963 - Buhaina's Delight

The Jazz Messengers
1963
Buhaina's Delight


01. Backstage Sally
02. Contemplation
03. Bu's Delight
04. Reincarnation Blues
05. Shaky Jake
06. Moon River

Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Cedar Walton
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard

Recorded on November 28 & December 18, 1961.


In late 1961, when Buhaina’s Delight was recorded for Blue Note Records, Art Blakey was leading one of the most potent and formidable line-ups of his long-running band, The Jazz Messengers.

The legendary jazz group was initially co-founded by Blakey with pianist Horace Silver, in 1954, but when the latter elected to pursue a career leading his own quintet, the Pittsburgh-born drummer was left holding the fort. From that period up until the recording of Buhaina’s Delight, a raft of talented young musicians passed through its ranks, among them high-calibre horn players such as Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd and Bennie Golson. The Messengers proved a valuable training ground for some of the brightest young talents in jazz – so much so that it was dubbed the “Hard Bop Academy”, and those who graduated from it often went on to enjoy stellar careers of their own.

Trumpeter Lee Morgan – a precociously-talented prodigy who signed to Blue Note as a solo artist at the age of 17, in 1956 – had led Blakey’s front line since 1958, when he made his debut on the band’s famous Moanin’ album. In the late summer of 1961, however, he left to be replaced by an even more dazzling and flamboyant horn blower: Freddie Hubbard.

Like Morgan, the Indianapolis-born Hubbard enjoyed a parallel solo career at Blue Note while also playing with The Messengers. When he joined the band, Art Blakey had just expanded the group from a quintet (which had been its usual configuration) to a sextet, with the addition of Curtis Fuller, whose resonant slide trombone brought both richer textures and deeper sonorities to the group’s horn sound.

Enriched by Fuller’s musical presence, the band at this time also included rising tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Cedar Walton (Buhaina’s Delight was only his second studio outing with the band), and bassist Jymie Merritt, a stalwart from the Moanin’ days. They were all hand-picked by their leader, Blakey, who was an astute judge of young talent and provided them with impeccable training on the bandstand.

Buhaina’s Delight was birthed from two separate sessions at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous Englewood Cliffs studio, on Tuesday, 28 November, and Monday, 18 December 1961. Its opener, ‘Backstage Sally’, is regarded as a classic Messengers tune and was written by Wayne Shorter, who had joined the band in 1959 and made his debut on 1960’s The Big Beat album, where he immediately showed his qualities as a composer.

Another Shorter tune, ‘Contemplation’, reveals that, as a composer, the young New Jersey saxophonist was no one-trick pony. It begins as a deep, meditative ballad on which Blakey – normally known for his virile, high-energy drumming – shows both restraint and sensitivity during the song’s slow, haunting intro section. Eventually the tempo picks up, with Shorter providing a darting solo.

‘Bu’s Delight’ comes from the pen of the other talented tunesmith in The Jazz Messengers at that time: Curtis Fuller. “Bu” was Blakey’s nickname (short for Buhaina, one of the three names the drummer took when he converted to Islam while in Africa during 1948). It opens with a rousing, three-horn brass fanfare punctuated by several fiery drum breaks, before a pulsating swing rhythm develops. The piece is really a vehicle to showcase the drum prowess of Blakey, who takes centre stage three and a half minutes into the tune. His solo builds slowly on a foundation consisting of a closed hi-hat, which keeps the rhythmic pulse beating throughout. A maelstrom of swirling tom-toms gives way to crescendoing press rolls, machine-gun-like snare drum salvos and waves of crashing cymbals. The tune ends with a reprise of the opening horn fanfare before a final barrage of drums climaxes the song on an explosive high.

After the ear-shattering percussion pyrotechnics of ‘Bu’s Delight’, Wayne Shorter’s ‘Reincarnation’ sounds positively mellow by comparison even though it swings with a brisk but subtle groove driven by Jymie Merritt’s walking bass. The solos are commendable, especially Hubbard’s, which is characterised by an exuberant athleticism.

There’s more of a blues feel to ‘Shaky Jake’, an infectious slice of soul jazz by pianist Cedar Walton, which opens with a smooth, interlocking horn theme answered by a churchy piano phrase that recalls the call-and response figures of the group’s classic 1958 tune ‘Moanin’’.

Buhaina’s Delight closes with ‘Moon River’, originally a reflective romantic ballad penned by composer Henry Mancini with lyricist Johnny Mercer for the soundtrack to Breakfast At Tiffany’s. It was a hit for R&B singer Jerry Butler in late 1961, but is most associated with crooner Andy Williams. The Messengers, however, liven it up: accelerating the tempo and transforming it into a pulsating piece of hard bop punctuated with attention-grabbing solos.

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In late 1961, when Buhaina’s Delight was recorded for Blue Note Records, Art Blakey was leading one of the most potent and formidable line-ups of his long-running band, The Jazz Messengers.

The legendary jazz group was initially co-founded by Blakey with pianist Horace Silver, in 1954, but when the latter elected to pursue a career leading his own quintet, the Pittsburgh-born drummer was left holding the fort. From that period up until the recording of Buhaina’s Delight, a raft of talented young musicians passed through its ranks, among them high-calibre horn players such as Hank Mobley, Jackie McLean, Johnny Griffin, Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd and Bennie Golson. The Messengers proved a valuable training ground for some of the brightest young talents in jazz – so much so that it was dubbed the “Hard Bop Academy”, and those who graduated from it often went on to enjoy stellar careers of their own.

Listen to Buhaina’s Delight on Apple Music and Spotify.

Impeccable training on the bandstand
Trumpeter Lee Morgan – a precociously-talented prodigy who signed to Blue Note as a solo artist at the age of 17, in 1956 – had led Blakey’s front line since 1958, when he made his debut on the band’s famous Moanin’ album. In the late summer of 1961, however, he left to be replaced by an even more dazzling and flamboyant horn blower: Freddie Hubbard.

Like Morgan, the Indianapolis-born Hubbard enjoyed a parallel solo career at Blue Note while also playing with The Messengers. When he joined the band, Art Blakey had just expanded the group from a quintet (which had been its usual configuration) to a sextet, with the addition of Curtis Fuller, whose resonant slide trombone brought both richer textures and deeper sonorities to the group’s horn sound.

Enriched by Fuller’s musical presence, the band at this time also included rising tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, pianist Cedar Walton (Buhaina’s Delight was only his second studio outing with the band), and bassist Jymie Merritt, a stalwart from the Moanin’ days. They were all hand-picked by their leader, Blakey, who was an astute judge of young talent and provided them with impeccable training on the bandstand.

Ear-shattering percussion pyrotechnics
Buhaina’s Delight was birthed from two separate sessions at Rudy Van Gelder’s famous Englewood Cliffs studio, on Tuesday, 28 November, and Monday, 18 December 1961. Its opener, ‘Backstage Sally’, is regarded as a classic Messengers tune and was written by Wayne Shorter, who had joined the band in 1959 and made his debut on 1960’s The Big Beat album, where he immediately showed his qualities as a composer.

Another Shorter tune, ‘Contemplation’, reveals that, as a composer, the young New Jersey saxophonist was no one-trick pony. It begins as a deep, meditative ballad on which Blakey – normally known for his virile, high-energy drumming – shows both restraint and sensitivity during the song’s slow, haunting intro section. Eventually the tempo picks up, with Shorter providing a darting solo.

‘Bu’s Delight’ comes from the pen of the other talented tunesmith in The Jazz Messengers at that time: Curtis Fuller. “Bu” was Blakey’s nickname (short for Buhaina, one of the three names the drummer took when he converted to Islam while in Africa during 1948). It opens with a rousing, three-horn brass fanfare punctuated by several fiery drum breaks, before a pulsating swing rhythm develops. The piece is really a vehicle to showcase the drum prowess of Blakey, who takes centre stage three and a half minutes into the tune. His solo builds slowly on a foundation consisting of a closed hi-hat, which keeps the rhythmic pulse beating throughout. A maelstrom of swirling tom-toms gives way to crescendoing press rolls, machine-gun-like snare drum salvos and waves of crashing cymbals. The tune ends with a reprise of the opening horn fanfare before a final barrage of drums climaxes the song on an explosive high.


A pulsating piece of hard bop
After the ear-shattering percussion pyrotechnics of ‘Bu’s Delight’, Wayne Shorter’s ‘Reincarnation’ sounds positively mellow by comparison even though it swings with a brisk but subtle groove driven by Jymie Merritt’s walking bass. The solos are commendable, especially Hubbard’s, which is characterised by an exuberant athleticism.

There’s more of a blues feel to ‘Shaky Jake’, an infectious slice of soul jazz by pianist Cedar Walton, which opens with a smooth, interlocking horn theme answered by a churchy piano phrase that recalls the call-and response figures of the group’s classic 1958 tune ‘Moanin’’.

Buhaina’s Delight closes with ‘Moon River’, originally a reflective romantic ballad penned by composer Henry Mancini with lyricist Johnny Mercer for the soundtrack to Breakfast At Tiffany’s. It was a hit for R&B singer Jerry Butler in late 1961, but is most associated with crooner Andy Williams. The Messengers, however, liven it up: accelerating the tempo and transforming it into a pulsating piece of hard bop punctuated with attention-grabbing solos.

Presented in a memorable Francis Wolff-photographed front cover that depicted Blakey immersed in a billowing cloud of his own cigarette smoke, Buhaina’s Delight was undoubtedly one of The Jazz Messengers’ strongest albums of the 60s. It stayed true to the group’s “all for one, one for all” belief in the value of musicians working as a team for a common goal. Six decades on from its original release, it still delights

The Jazz Messengers - 1962 - Caravan

The Jazz Messengers
1962
Caravan


01. Caravan 9:44
02. Sweet 'N' Sour 5:28
03. In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning 4:01
04. This Is For Albert 8:15
05. Skylark 4:45
06. Thermo 6:44

Bass – Reggie Workman
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Cedar Walton
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard



By the time that jazz icon/bandleader/percussionist Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers began recording for Riverside in the fall of 1962, Blakey had already been the spiritual center of the group for nearly 15 years. The unprecedented caliber of performers who had already passed through the revolving-door personnel reads like a who's who of 20th century jazz. On Caravan -- his first of several notable sides for the venerable label -- he is joined by a quintet of concurrent and future all-stars. Likewise, it could be argued that each has never again been presented in such a fresh or inspired setting as on these recordings. In order to establish with any authority just how heavy (even for purveyors of hard bop) the players in this band are, they need only to be named: Curtis Fuller (trombone), Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Cedar Walton (piano), and Reggie Workman (bass). With Blakey (drums) firmly at the helm, these Jazz Messengers deliver a scintillating synergy that doesn't sacrifice intensity for the sake of cadence. The trademark give-and-take that graces the laid-back and sophisticated pop and jazz standards "Skylark" and "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" likewise is responsible for the palpable energy brought to the sizeable contributions from Shorter and Hubbard -- which make up half of the album's material. The title and leadoff track liquefies Duke Ellington's original arrangement and ignites it, fueling this extended fiery interpretation. Hubbard's first solo harks back to his own recording of "Caravan," which can be heard on the Impulse release Artistry of Freddie Hubbard and was recorded earlier the same year. Coincidentally, that disc also features Curtis Fuller as well as a rare non-Sun Ra-related appearance from John Gilmore (tenor sax). Blow for blow, however, this reading has more than just an edge -- it possesses the entire blade. The melody snakes in and out of Blakey's strident flurry of syncopation. Another highlight is Shorter's interjectory solo, recalling his ability to succeed John Coltrane in Miles Davis' coterie. Among the original compositions, Shorter's upbeat "Sweet 'n' Sour" stands out as the most cohesive and ensemble-driven, although the singular group dynamic is well applied to the lively "This Is for Albert" as well. By contrast, Hubbard's "Thermo" is more angular -- taking full advantage of the musicians' aggressive chops. The 2001 20-bit remaster from Fantasy contains two bonus tracks: take four of "Sweet 'n' Sour" and take two of "Thermo." This release can be considered definitive Blakey, bop, and Jazz Messengers.

Art Blakey demanded bravado from his bands, and this one was perhaps his most intense and adventurous.

Debuting here on Riverside, “Caravan” opens with Blakey’s audacious drum solo — then moves quickly into an assertive and simply awe-inspiring take on a track once defined by Duke Ellington. A muscular trio of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, bone player Curtis Fuller and saxophonist Wayne Shorter — swelling the Jazz Messengers to sextet status for the first time ever — clear the way for a impish signature by pianist Cedar Walton, then encircle the tune in ways both inventive and familiar.

If this album ended at the 9:44 mark, when “Caravan” concludes, it would still be one for the ages. But they were just getting started, quite literally.

Shorter, by then the veteran of the group, completely inhabits that role, offering new compositions in “Sweet n’ Sour” and the harmonically challenging “This is for Albert” that anchor both sides of this record. A surprise among two other cover tunes is “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” which softens the familiar, driving Blakey sound with a touch of welcome romanticism — courtesy of Fuller’s warm and inviting work on the trombone.

Leave it to Hubbard to finish things on an appropriate note — burning down the house on the set closing, and appropriately named, “Thermo.”

Blakey, who was all about thermo, helped shape the 1950s reaction to the languid and occasionally featureless West Coast jazz — something Miles Davis launched with “Birth of the Cool,” then almost immediately distanced himself from as it began to become both pervasive and then moribund.

Hard bop, with Blakey as its champion, steered the music back into its African root system — as did the subsequent, far more commercial soul jazz movement. Both had, at their center, a basis in the blues, best heard on the records of soul jazz stars like Jimmy Smith and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. Hard bop took the blues, though, and built a entirely different structure on top of it.

Blakey walked the walk, spending time during this period in West Africa, and taking the indiginous name of “Abdullah Ibn Buhaina” — later more commonly shortened, simply, to “Bu.”

But his fierce, uncompromising records only heralded a flying-leap period of experimentation by jazz musicians that went even further away from European musical traditions in the latter half of the 1960s — a no-chords/no-compass approach personified by the sheets-of-sound recordings by John Coltrane, and mirroring the flights of fancy by signature pop artists of the day like the Beatles.

But before that came this period of sharp-witted, still vibrant recordings by guys like Blakey — a loving, if aggressive, look back into the roots of black music.

The exit of Lee Morgan, followed by the quick introduction and steady maturation of Hubbard and Fuller, confirmed Blakey’s place — even then — as one of the top finishing schools for young jazz minds. It’s a role he would play into the 1980s, with final lineups that featured Wynton and Branford Marsalis, and then Terence Blanchard and Donald Harrison.

Bassist Reggie Workman appears for the first time with the Jazz Messengers here, but it’s Walton who takes this album to places — notably on the extended title piece — that the departed Bobby Timmons couldn’t have dreamed. Blakey found a way, even on transitional albums, to improve.

They’re still discovering their true voices, but yet also finding ways to dazzle. “Mosaic,” which preceeded this one in 1961, and the subsequent 1964 album “Free For All,” both on Blue Note, are similar, nearly perfect polyrhythmic gems.

A high-water period for a band that had many.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1962 - Three Blind Mice

The Jazz Messengers
1962
Three Blind Mice


01. Three Blind Mice 8:20
02. Blue Moon 6:01
03. That Old Feeling 6:36
04. Plexis 5:51
05. Up Jumped Spring 9:48
06. When Lights Are Low 4:11
On CD version:
07. Children Of The Night 8:12

Recorded live at the Renaissance Club, Hollywood in March 1962.


3 Blind Mice Volume 2 (Released in 1986)

01. It's Only A Paper Moon 13:24
02. Mosaic 12:27
03. Ping Pong 12:20
04. The Promised Land 13:11
05. Arabia 11:25

Recorded live at the Renaissance Club, Hollywood in March 1962.
Tracks 4 & 5: Recorded live at Village Gate, New York, in August 1961. Additional tracks for this issue.


Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Cedar Walton
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trombone – Curtis Fuller
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard



Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers rode through the rough waters of significant record label, personnel, and sound changes in 1962. A young Freddie Hubbard took the trumpet chair, trombonist Curtis Fuller was added, and a pre-Miles Davis Wayne Shorter played tenor sax. The richness of these three golden greats of modern jazz made for an intriguing sound, but it was short-lived, as all three left the group for bigger and better things. Where the anchoring piano player, composer, and music director Cedar Walton (who took over for the prolific Bobby Timmons) would sustain the ensemble before, during, and after this live date done at the Renaissance Club in Hollywood, the split melodic and harmonic responsibilities of the front line were not as sustainable as when Hank Mobley or Benny Golson and Lee Morgan were members. Blakey had also left the Blue Note label for this one-shot deal with United Artists Records, which was eventually reissued by Blue Note -- a full-circle deal if there ever was one. So this release, and a subsequent Vol. 2, are significant historically, while musically they're not bad at all. Vol. 1 is a half set of standards done the Blakey way, with "Blue Moon" a ballad feature for Freddie Hubbard and a bouncy, spare treatment of "That Old Feeling" with Walton in the middle of it, while Benny Carter's evergreen "When Lights Are Low" has third-wheel Fuller up front, but cutting the melody short to only the second half of the line, at once clever and disjointed. Fuller's adaptation of the children's song "Three Blind Mice" will always be known as quintessential Jazz Messengers fare, with a slightly soured, off-minor modal approach. The best piece is Walton's "Plexis," an outstanding construct of modal stealth piano propping up the three horns in a demonstrative attitude, with everyone briefly featured. This is one of the most potent editions of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers in distinct transition, heading toward their most revered period, with Walton compositionally leading them in many real and important ways.

The second of two LPs that greatly expand the original Three Blind Mice LP captures the all-star Jazz Messengers sextet of 1961-1962 at two separate concerts. The five extended performances, which consist of four group originals (including "Mosaic" and "Ping Pong") and "It's Only a Paper Moon," include many strong solos from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and pianist Cedar Walton, all future bandleaders. Both of the volumes are highly recommended.

Monday, February 10, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1962 - Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World Vol. 2

The Jazz Messengers
1962
Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World Vol. 2


01. High Modes
02. Night Watch
03. The Things I Love
04. The Summit
05. The Theme

Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Tenor Saxophone – Wayne Shorter
Trumpet – Lee Morgan


Art Blakey (drums) and the Jazz Messengers are back home at Birdland [AKA ‘the jazz corner of the world'] on this second instalment of Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World, Vol. 2 (1961). Over half a decade after recording the seminal bop masterwork A Night At Birdland (1954), the combo -- which sports Lee Morgan (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano) and Jymie Merritt (bass) -- returned to their former stompin' grounds on the five cuts included on this disc. The band reels under the authoritative beat of Blakey, who grounds the emerging leadership of Morgan and Shorter. If sides such as Hank Mobley's "High Modes" -- which jump-starts this effort -- is any indication, the pair seem to be likewise learning from the experience of simply interacting with each other. This sort of ‘on-the-job training' became an essential element in the Messengers and propelled the likes of Shorter into the orbit of Miles Davis. During his tenure with Blakey, Shorter's trademark lyrical performance style can be actively heard emerging during these recordings. He contrasts Morgan's limber and lilting solos and improvisations, which weaves through Jymie Merritt's pulsating and hypnotic basslines on the previously mentioned "High Modes". "Night Watch", another Mobley composition, is a syncopated and infectiously rhythmic side which spotlights Shorter's increasing grasp on his immense improvisational skills. Again, these abilities would allow the musician to quickly develop as the undaunted instrumentalist that helped revolutionize modern jazz with Miles Davis in the mid ‘60s. The LP concludes with a rousing rendition of Shorter's "The Summit" -- which would become a standard for this particular incarnation of the Jazz Messengers. Once again the lines fly fast and furious between Shorter and Morgan with Timmons securely anchoring the soloists to the equally involved rhythm section. Both the first and second volumes of Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World were collected on a Rudy Van Gelder two-CD edition. This 2002 reissue includes a newly inked essay from jazz historian Bob Bluementhal as well as reproductions of Leonard Feather's original sleeve notes. Enthusiasts should be aware that the sonic distortion is inherent in the master tapes and is otherwise unavoidable on the reissue. However, this should not discourage interested parties and collectors.