Wednesday, January 29, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1958 - Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers (Moanin')

The Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers (Moanin') 

01. Moanin'
02. Are You Real
03. Along Came Betty
04. The Drum Thunder (Miniature) Suite
4.1. First Theme: Drum Thunder
4.2. Second Theme: Cry A Blue Tear
4.3. Third Theme: Harlem's Disciples
05. Blues March
06. Come Rain Or Come Shine

Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Tenor Saxophone – Benny Golson
Trumpet – Lee Morgan
Recorded on October 30, 1958.

Note for collectors: the 1st original pressing has 47 West 63rd St. address on labels, with no INC. and no ® for trademark under the E on deep grooved labels. The cover is front laminated with no INC. on the back.
In the dead wax: the "ear" or "P" symbol for Plastylite must be hand-etched, RVG is stamped.

The 2nd pressing is the same, but it has the INC. on the back-cover and on the deep grooved labels.

Recorded in 1958 and first released in January 1959, this album was originally self-titled, but was often renamed "Moanin'" on later issues due to the popularity of the opening track.

Moanin' includes some of the greatest music Blakey produced in the studio with arguably his very best band. There are three tracks that are immortal and will always stand the test of time. The title selection is a pure tuneful melody stewed in a bluesy shuffle penned by pianist Bobby Timmons, while tenor saxophonist Benny Golson's classy, slowed "Along Came Betty" and the static, militaristic "Blues March" will always have a home in the repertoire of every student or professional jazz band. "Are You Real?" has the most subtle of melody lines, and "Drum Thunder Suite" has Blakey's quick blasting tom-tom-based rudiments reigning on high as the horns sigh, leading to hard bop. "Come Rain or Come Shine" is the piece that commands the most attention, a highly modified, lilting arrangement where the accompanying staggered, staccato rhythms contrast the light-hearted refrains. Certainly a complete and wholly satisfying album, Moanin' ranks with the very best of Blakey and what modern jazz offered in the late '50s and beyond.

There's a reason this one of the definitive hard bop albums and arguably the place to start when exploring the Art Blakey & Jazz Messenger's work, it's just that good. The opening title track is arguably one of the earliest soul jazz classics and everyone on it is fine shape on this bluesy, nocturnal struttin' anthem, especially it's writer, pianist Bobby Timmons. Are You Real is energetic fun while Along Came Betty is a lovely mid tempo ballad that glides by while evoking images of a lovely couple walking through a big city. The Thunder Drum Suite is arguably the most impressive and experimental track on album, it's a showcase for Blakey's appropriately thunderous and inventive drum work, all while conjuring up images of someone running through the streets of a city at night, Blues March also showcases Blakey's inventive drum work with it's militaristic rhythm, and to close off the album is an upbeat reading of the Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer standard Come Rain or Come Shine.

Drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers enjoyed one of the most consistently successful careers in the history of modern jazz, and the album "Moanin'" is their most revered masterpiece. The entire album delivers the musicianship of refined jazz double-dipped in the soul of gritty blues, never more-so than on the title track, which also happens to be the album's opener. The song's intro is irresistible Ray Charles era soul, and pianist Bobby Timmons remains the driving force throughout. However, trumpeter Lee Morgan steals the show by delivering a star-marking performance; that his solo is one of the greatest in the history of his instrument is beyond argument. Later, sax player Benny Golson does the same for his instrument on "Come Rain or Come Shine." The band miraculously takes this mellow love song and turns it into an upbeat rhythm and blues number that would make any rock and roller envious. The whole album is a study in musicianship, creativity, and eclecticism.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1958 - A Night In Tunisia

The Jazz Messengers
A Night In Tunisia

01. A Night In Tunisia 12:53
02. Off The Wall 7:15
03. Theory Of Art 9:43
04. Couldn't It Be You? 8:09
05. Evans 5:47

Alternate Takes
06. A Night In Tunisia 12:19
07. Off The Wall 7:12
08. Theory Of Art 10:14

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky De Bre
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam Dockery
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Recorded in Studio No. 3, New York City, on April 2 and 8, 1957.
Tracks 1 to 5: original 1957 LP issue, A Night In Tunisia, Vik LX-1115.
Tracks 6 to 8 Previously Unreleased

In addition to his prowess as a drummer, Art Blakey is probably best known for his ability to select and willingness to nurture talented young musicians who would, after their time in his Jazz Messengers, go on to become some of the strongest composers and leaders of all time; perhaps nowhere is this generosity towards the development of others more on display than it is here on "A Night in Tunisia". Never one to hog the spotlight simply because his was the name at the top of the bill, Blakey turns much of this set over to his youthful side men, allowing them to shine not only through their playing, but also by letting them express their creativity through their compositional skills as well. As a result, Morgan, Shorter and Timmons all get to showcase their burgeoning talents (with Shorter's "Sincerely Diana" and Morgan's slow-smoldering "Yama" being two of the standouts here), and the end result is a superior set of classic Hard Bop filled with catchy riffs and extended solos that is one of the Jazz Messengers' best.
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers hit their artistic peak with the powerful A Night in Tunisia. This incarnation of the group included Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt along with their leader, Blakey. As the Messengers entered their most fruitful period for Blue Note, Blakey drove his men relentlessly with powerful grooves, heavy swinging, and shouts of encouragement. This session documents the full power of his assertive leadership and the masterful playing of his sidemen, each rising to legendary status under his tutelage. Long known for their creative arrangements within the context of small-group jazz, the Messengers push the definition of hard bop and blues to the limit here. Dizzy Gillespie's title track is evidence enough of the creative power of this group: Blakey's steam shovel-like mambo, Morgan and Shorter's wailing solos, and a dramatic ending make for a stunning piece. Shorter's contribution includes the swinging "Sincerely Diana." The soulful Bobby Timmons presents his delightful "So Tired," a bluesy number in the spirit of his classic "Dat Dere." Also included are Lee Morgan's smoky "Yama," the bouncing "Kozo's Waltz," and the classic "When Your Lover Has Gone."

A couple years after the legendary Moanin,' Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers showed us they were still at the top of their artistic game with 1961's A Night in Tunisia (the groups second album to be titled as such). Blakey transforms the Dizzy Gillespie standard from which the album gets it's title into a roaring, extended hard bop anthem that offers some of his best, wildest, most exhilarating drumming since he put The Thunder Drum Suite to tape. The group then continues the energy with the hard bouncing and swinging Sincerely Diana and gets deliciously bluesy with So Tired before getting mellow and moody with the "smokey" (as it's been described) Yama, a fantastic little ballad, before returning the tempo with Kozo's Waltz. While Moanin' remains Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers most essential and all around best work, A Night in Tunisia is quite excellent and worth checking out.

The Jazz Messengers - 1958 - Des Femmes Disparaissent

The Jazz Messengers
Des Femmes Disparaissent

01. Générique 2:46
02. Pierre Et Béatrice 1:04
03. Nasol 0:42
04. Tom 1:15
05. Poursuite Dans La Ruelle 0:21
06. Ne Chuchote Pas 1:26
07. Mambo Dans La Voiture 1:18
08. Merlin 0:46
09. Juste Pour Eux Seuls 2:26
10. Blues Pour Doudou 3:15
11. Blues Pour Marcel 4:20
12. Blues Pour Vava 3:31
13. Pasquier 1:02
14. Quaglio 0:47
15. La Divorcée De Léo Fall 2:12
16. Suspense, Tom Et Nasol 0:40
17. Des Femmes Disparaissent 1:03
18. Final Pour Pierre Et Béatrice 1:00

Double Bass – Jimmy Merritt
Drums, Leader – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Saxophone [Tenor] – Benny Golson
Trumpet – Lee Morgan

Original Soundtrack of Edouard Molinaro's movie
Recorded December 1958 in Paris

These tracks were recorded in Paris in December 1958 during a week-long European road trip by the Jazz Messengers—Benny Golson (ts) [pictured], Lee Morgan (tp), Bobby Timmons (p), Jymie Merritt (b) and Blakey (d)—recorded incidental music for a French film.

Much of the music was written by Benny, with some of the rhythmic blues pieces credited to Blakey. The 18 brief, improvised sketches are largely fragments, though I like to think of them as Jazz Messengers potato chips.

What you have here is an interesting series of incidental music sequences by the Jazz Messengers at the height of the hard-bop band's creative power. The music was recorded after a particularly prolific period for the musicians on the date. Moanin', one of Blakey's finest albums, was recorded two months earlier in October. Blakey recorded Drums Around the Corner and Holiday for Skins in November while Benny recorded The Other Side of Benny Golson and Benny Golson and the Philadelphians in the months leading up to the trip.

According to Leslie Gourse's book, Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger (2002):

"Although American movies had not yet begun to employ jazz composers for soundtracks, French director Louis Malle had used Miles Davis to create the soundtrack for his Ascenseur Pour l'Échafaud in 1957. On December 18 and 19, 1958, Blakey recorded music for Édouard Molinaro's film Des Femmes Disparaissent (The Disappearing Women) with Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt; he would record music for Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons Dangereuses, on July 28 and 29, 1959, using French saxophonist Barney Wilen in place of Golson."

Note that these are largely concepts recorded to add tension behind scenes in this black-and-white film. But there are tracks that run over four minutes in length. If you're a fan of Blakey and this lineup of Jazz Messengers, you'll find these chips rewarding.

The Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk - 1958 - Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk

The Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk
Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk

01. Evidence
02. In Walked Bud
03. Blue Monk
04. I Mean You
05. Rhythm-A-Ning
06. Purple Shades

Bonus Tracks
07. Evidence (Alternate Take)
08. Blue Monk (Alternate Take)
09. I Mean You (Alternate Take)

Bass – Spanky DeBrest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Thelonious Monk
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Original 1958 stereo edition with green deep-groove labels, no fan logo. The cover has a large "Stereo Disc" logo in black print on front that appears to be silkscreened onto the glossy jacket. Upper left corner of backcover reads 'HIGH FIDELITY', upper right corner 'ATLANTIC 1278'. Similar release with different backcover is here: Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk.

Most of the titles on this album are derived from Thelonious Monk's vast catalog of bop standards. Both co-leaders are at the peak of their respective prowess with insightful interpretations of nearly half a dozen inspired performances from this incarnation of the Blakey-led Jazz Messengers. This combo features Art Blakey (drums), Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Bill Hardman (trumpet), and Spanky Debrest (bass). Immediately, Hardman ups the ante with a piledriving lead during "Evidence" that underscores the heavy-hitting nature of this particular jazz confab. Monk counters with some powerful and inspired runs that are sonically splintered by the enthusiastic -- if not practically percussive -- chord progressions and highly logistic phrasings from the pianist. The inherent melodic buoyancy on "In Walked Bud" contains a springboard-like quality, with Griffin matching Monk's bounce measure for measure. Griffin's incessant efforts create a freshness to the tune that often escapes other less inspired readings. From Blakey's boisterous opening on "Blue Monk" through to Monk's single-note crescendo during the finale, the Jazz Messengers provide a lethargic propulsion that showcases the melody's bluesy origins. This directly contrasts the uptempo charge of "Rhythm-A-Ning." The quirky yet catchy chorus glides with the dual-lead horn section as the entire arrangement is tautly bound by the understated Debrest and Blakey. Griffin's "Purple Shades" is the only non-Monk composition that this aggregate recorded. This smartly syncopated blues seems better suited for the Jazz Messengers than for Monk. However, the pianist's opening solo alternately shimmers and shudders with Debrest as well as Griffin and Hardman, who demonstrate their own pronounced capabilities over Monk's otherwise occasional counterpoint.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Hard Bop

The Jazz Messengers
Hard Bop

01. Cranky Spanky
02. Stella By Starlight
03. My Heart Stood Still
04. Little Melonae
05. Stanley's Stiff Chickens

06. Nica's Tempo 8:17
07. Dee's Dilemma 8:26
08. Just For Marty 5:46
09. Gershwin Medley (4:50)
a. Rhapsody In Blue
b. Summertime
c. Someone To Watch Over Me
d. The Man I Love

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky de Brest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam Dockery
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Recorded December 12 & 13, 1956 at Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York City

Issued as part of Mosaic Records' Singles series, Hard Bop is given the deluxe treatment here. For starters, this 1957 date -- with altoist Jackie McLean, pianist Sam Dockery, trumpeter Bill Hardman, and bassist Spanky DeBrest -- appears here for the first time in stereo, remastered from the original three-track tapes. Another plus is the addition of four tracks from the same sessions, recorded September 12 and 13, 1956, at Columbia Studios. The original featured McLean's classic "Little Melonae," as well as the steaming Hardman number "Cranky Spanky" and one he wrote with McLean, "Stanley's Stiff Chickens," all of which are fine definitions of what hard bop indeed was. The bonuses here include three tracks from Drum Suite -- including Gigi Gryce's "Nica's Tempo," Hardman's "Just for Marty," and Mal Waldron's stunner "Dee's Dilemma." It's topped off with "Gershwin Medley" from Originally, released by Columbia in 1981. This is the first place this entire session in all its finery has been assembled. While it's true this was the band right after Horace Silver left, and was still not in its most memorable era, the music here is for the most part flawless and necessary for any Jazz Messengers fan

The following brief review was intended for the original "Hard Bop" on a 1956 Columbia date. The present "Hard Bop" is an anthology of essential Blakey recordings that can be easily recommended, though for some it might be preferable to go to the individual albums. For example, several of the tracks are from the indispensable "A Night at Birdland," an early (1954) Messengers' album and one of the first Blue Note "live" albums. It's revered by many collectors as representative of some of the best of Clifford Brown and originally was released as two separate vinyl volumes. (Give the nod to Vol. 1.)]

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Rita Reys - 1956 - The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys

Rita Reys
The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys

01. It's All Right With Me
02. Gone With The Wind
03. My Funny Valentine
04. But Not For Me
05. I Should Care
06. There'll Never Be Another You
07. I Cried For You
08. You'd Be So Nice To Come Home To
09. My One And Only Love
10. That Old Black Magic
11. Spring Will Be A Little Late This Year
12. Taking A Chance On Love

Rita Reys With The Wes Ilcken Combo tracks 1 - 6
Rita Reys With The Jazz Messengers tracks 7 - 12

Bass – Chris Bender (tracks: A3), Dick Bezemer (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to A6), Doug Watkins (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Wilbur Ware (tracks: B3, B5)
Drums – Art Blakey (tracks: B1 to B6), Wes Ilcken (tracks: A1 to A6)
Piano – Horace Silver (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A3), Kenny Drew (tracks: B3, B5), Rob Madna (tracks: A1, A2, A4 to A6)
Tenor Saxophone – Hank Mobley (tracks: B1, B2, B4, B6), Ira Sullivan (tracks: B3, B5), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A1, A2, A4), Toon van Vliet (tracks: A3, A5, A6)
Trumpet – Donald Byrd (tracks: B1 to B6), Herman Schoonderwalt (tracks: A1 to A4), Jerry Van Rooyen (tracks: A5, A6)
Vocals – Rita Reys

Recorded 1955-1956, side A recorded in Holland with The Wes Ilcken Combo, side B recorded in the United States with The Jazz Messengers.

After an early plunge into the pop music of the time, singer Rita Keys (1924-2013) came to jazz when, in 1943, she met Wessel Ilcken (1923-1957), Holland s then best drummer. She became his wife, and the influence of his teachings, allied to the impact on her of recordings by such American singers as Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holiday helped her forge a very per- sonal style.
This collection of songs sets her wonderfully cool voice and sophisticated approach against backgrounds which, though different, reflect her ability to stamp her personality on diverse circumstances to produce equal- ly interesting performances. Regardless of context, her artistry is supremely evident throughout. Every song is approached with an instinctive musicianship and feel- ing for the lyrics, and an innate sense of phrasing, which fill each performance with an inescapable atmosphere
Dutch album cover

The Cool Voice of Rita Reys is the debut album by Dutch jazz singer Rita Reys which features sessions recorded with bands led by drummers Wessel Ilcken and Art Blakey divided over each side of the original LP which was released on the Dutch Philips and US Columbia labels.

As far as I can tell, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recorded behind a singer only once. That session took place in May and June 1956 in New York and was released on Columbia and the Netherlands' Philips label, which makes perfect sense since the vocalist was Rita Reys, a Dutch jazz singer. Interestingly, the result was quite good, making one wish the Jazz Messengers had departed every so often from instrumentals to back hip vocalists like Johnny Hartman. 

The Jazz Messengers lineup in May featured trumpeter Donald Byrd, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Horace Silver, bassist Doug Watkins and drummer Blakey. In June, the personnel shifted: trumpeter Byrd, tenor saxophonist Ira Sullivan, pianist Kenny Drew, bassist Wilbur Ware and drummer Blakey. The personnel is different because by June, Silver and Blakey had parted, with Silver forming his own quintet with Mobley and Watkins. Reys became interested in jazz in the Netherlands after meeting her first husband, Wessel Ilcken, a drummer. They formed a sextet and had some success in Stockholm. Producer George Avakian heard Reys sing in Amsterdam and invited her to the U.S. While here in 1956, she recorded half an album with the Jazz Messengers and performed with the group at New York's Village Vanguard.

She also appeared with organist Jimmy Smith and accordionist Mat Mathews. The following year she returned to New York and performed with the Chico Hamilton Quintet as well as Clark Terry, Zoot Sims and Oscar Pettiford. Sadly, her husband died of a brain hemorrhage shortly after her return to the Netherlands, where she was based and remains today based on her site.

The May 1956 tracks were Taking a Chance on Love, That Old Black Magic, You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To and I Cried for You. The June tracks were My One and Only Love and Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year. Interestingly, the intro to My One and Only Love is identical to the one used in 1957 by Silver for the same song on The Stylings of Silver. Even though Silver was no longer part of the Jazz Messengers by June, the group used Silver's opening arrangement.

One would assume that since Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were signed to Columbia at the time and had recorded their first album for producer George Avakian in Arpil and May 1956, the Reys date was squeezed in as a favor to the Philips label to help along the foreign distribution of Columbia's 12-inch LPs in Europe and build the Jazz Messengers as a brand abroad. The album was also released on Columbia in the U.S. Reys, as you'll hear, has a June Christy approach to her delivery, with a faint Dutch lilt in her English lyrics. All in all, she turns in a solid job on all of the Jazz Messengers-backed tunes, working with the group rather than treating them as backup musicians. There's a real togetherness here, and Reys has a firm, swinging understanding of each song's story.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Selections From Lerner & Loewe

The Jazz Messengers
Selections From Lerner & Loewe

01. I Could Have Danced All Night 4:16
02. On The Street Where You Live 9:02
03. There But For You Go I 4:34
04. They Call The Wind Maria 4:56
05. I Talk To The Trees 8:58
06. Almost Like Being In Love

Bass – Jimmy De Brest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam (Bill) Dockery
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Songs from 'My Fair Lady' (A1, A2), 'Brigadoon' (A3, B3), and 'Paint Your Wagon' (B1, B2).

One of the rarest of all Art Blakey records, this LP finds the Jazz Messengers (featuring new member Johnny Griffin on tenor and trumpeter Bill Hardman) performing jazz versions of six show tunes by Lerner & Loewe, including three ("Almost Like Being in Love," "I Could Have Danced All Night," and "On the Street Where You Live") that would soon become standards. Despite some of the musicians' unfamiliarity with the songs, this date is quite successful.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Drum Suite

The Jazz Messengers
Drum Suite

Drum Suite
01. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble The Sacrifice
02. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble Cubano Chant
03. The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble Oscalypso
The Jazz Messengers
04. The Jazz Messengers Nica's Tempo
05. The Jazz Messengers D's Dilemma
06. The Jazz Messengers Just For Marty

07. The Jazz Messengers Lil 'T (aka The Third)
08. The Jazz Messengers The New Message (aka Little T) Take 1
09. The Jazz Messengers The New Message (aka Little T) Take 3

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean (tracks: 4 to 6)
Bass – Spanky De Brest (tracks: 4 to 6), Wilbur Ware (tracks: 7 to 9)
Bass, Cello – Oscar Pettiford (tracks: 1 to 3)
Bongos – Candido (tracks: 1 to 3), Sabu (tracks: 1 to 3)
Drums – Art Blakey, Jo Jones (tracks: 1 to 3)
Drums, Timpani, Gong – Charles Wright (tracks: 1 to 3)
Piano – Kenny Drew (tracks: 7 to 9), Ray Bryant (tracks: 1 to 3), Sam Dockery (tracks: 4 to 6)
Tenor Saxophone – Ira Sullivan (tracks: 7 to 9)
Trumpet – Bill Hardman (tracks: 4 to 6), Donald Byrd (tracks: 7 to 9)

Recorded February 22, 1957 (#1-3) December 12 & 13, 1956 (#4-6) Jun 25, 1956 (#7-9) at Columbia 30th Street Studios, New York City.

Who else than the indomitable Art Blakey was qualified to present an African drum extravaganza? Maybe not so shocking today, Drum Suite was a progressive album in the late fifties.

The album is made up of two sessions. Side A consists of exotic, Afro-Cuban rhythms and the flipside is a swell session of Blakey’s working band of the period consisting of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Bill Hardman, pianist Sam Dockery and bassist Spanky DeBrest. The first part (as well as the classy album cover) suggests that Art Blakey was eager to put Africa back into jazz. Yet, in drummer Art Taylor’s book of interviews Notes And Tones, (Da Capo, 1982) Blakey insisted that he has always felt that ‘our music has nothing to do with Africa. (…) No America, no jazz. (…) African music is entirely different, and the Africans are much more advanced than we are rhythmically, though we’re more advanced harmonically.’ In this view, which perhaps unintentionally ignores the impact of both Afro(-Cuban) rhythm and imported European musical standards on the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, Drum Suite isn’t jazz but African music. Or better said, African music played by American men of jazz. But Blakey would know. The Pittsburgh-born drummer traveled in Africa for almost a year in 1949. By his own account, just listening, not drumming.
Tossing two sessions together on an album was a not uncommon practice in the classic jazz era. It could have a number of reasons. Sometimes, studio time ran out. And occasionally, musicians weren’t available anymore due to other obligations. Companies also might go for the easy way (and/or a fast buck), rounding out albums with sessions from the vault. Such albums usually lack coherence, an encompassing idea. Drum Suite is incoherent. But it’s a high quality affair, so who cares?

Beat happening! The Afro-Cuban tunes, wherein Blakey is assisted by drummers Jo Jones and Charles “Specs” Wright, the bongo’s of Candido and Sabu Martinez, bassist Oscar Pettiford and pianist Ray Bryant, sans horns, get you into the groove, no doubt. The aptly-titled The Sacrifice starts off with an indelible African backwoods chant, slowly but surely developing into a multi-layered rumble of toms, flavored with chubby chords and staccato lines by Ray Bryant. The tom-figure from the opening is repeated at the end. Interestingly, it’s reminiscent of the drum part in Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zaratustra, which was used to such imposing effect in Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 science-fiction movie 2001 A Space Odyssee.

Ray Bryant will undoubtly have been thrilled by the re-visit of his original tune Cubano Chant. Initially, Bryant had recorded it in 1956 on the Epic LP Ray Bryant Trio, including, coincidentally, Jo Jones and Candido. The broadened palette of instruments results in a piece of tough swing, highlighting Bryant’s inventive left hand, which generally puts emphasis on the low register and down-home fills that reach back to the era of swing, blues and stride. Staccato, swinging right hand lines weave in and out of Bryant’s left hand bottom. Bryant would revisit the uplifting Cubano Chant a number of times during his career. Finally, Oscar Pettiford’s Oscalypso ends the Afro-Cuban side on a groovy note. But three tunes in, the pounding percussion sounds of the basic calypso riff might start to get up one’s sleeve.

Part of an elite jazz family that brought Afro-Cuban music to the jazz realm, including Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Kenny Dorham, the Drum Suite-section is a convincing, spirited affair, and one of the first percussion-oriented jazz album sides. It’s a February 22, 1957 session. Just a while later, Blakey would expand on his percussion fetish on the Blue Note label, releasing Orgy In Rhythm, a date that was recorded in May and October, 1957, as well as Drums Around The Corner and Holiday For Skins in 1958.

Obviously, despite Blakey’s assesment of his own, ‘American’ style, Blakey’s drumming incorporated some African devices, such as the altering of pitch with the elbow, tangible rim shots, and multiple rolls on the toms: an armoury of effects to stimulate the soloists. Some of these assets, embellishing the signature Blakey style of a propulsive beat and thunderous polyrhythm, are present on the other session of Drum Suite, a date of December 13, 1956. They especially fill Bill Hardman’s fast-paced, swinging tune Just For Marty to the brim. It’s a top-rate session with vigorous blowing by Jackie McLean and a number of jubilant, fluent statements by Bill Hardman, an underestimated player with a delicious, sweet-sour tone.

Before Blakey gained widespread recognition with the Blue Note album Moanin’ in 1958, it was hard to make head or tail out of the drummer’s recording career, as Blakey recorded albums for a varying string of labels, including Vik, Jubilee, Bethlehem, Atlantic and Columbia. Yet, however disparate Blakey’s catalogue of that period between the early classic Jazz Messenger sides on Blue Note and successful comeback on the famous label in 1958 may be, it was of a continuous high level. The singular Drum Suite album is no exception.

The all-star lineup on Drum Suite gives the album high marks before one note of music is played. It's a piece of history. Released in 1957, the album merged Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with several other musical forces that proved fruitful, rhythmically and otherwise.

With this reissue come several bonus tracks that had appeared on Originally in 1981, one alternate take, and a full version of "The Sacrifice" that wasn't previously issued. The original liner notes from Drum Suite are included, as well as updated notes by Kenny Washington and a booklet with fourteen photos of the artists.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Hard Drive

The Jazz Messengers
Hard Drive

01. For Minors Only 5:47
02. Right Down Front 4:30
03. Deo-X 5:47
04. Sweet Sakeena 5:04
05. For Miles And Miles 5:24
06. Krafty 6:33
07. Late Spring 5:36

Bass – Spanky de Brest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Junior Mance
Piano – Sam Dockery (track: 3)
Tenor Saxophone – Johnny Griffin
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Cover shows a rocket blasting off. There is an alternate cover with an abstract painting.

Any recording featuring Bill Hardman's trumpet with Blakey's Messengers is a worthy find. And on this one, he's joined on the front-line by the "Little Giant," Johnny Griffin. The tunes are somewhat dated blues and bebop heads, but the inventiveness of the soloists surpasses that of many more heralded musicians from this or any later period. My only disappointment is that another Blakey-Hardman recording from this period (with Jackie McLean replacing Griffin)--"Tough"--has apparently never been reissued on CD. A pity, because Hardman is simply brilliant, more than compensating for the unavoidably sour after-taste of Jackie's alto.

Alternate Cover

The final recording by the second version of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers features trumpeter Bill Hardman, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin, either Junior Mance or Sam Dockery on piano and bassist Spanky DeBrest along with leader/drummer Blakey performing four group originals, two Jimmy Heath compositions and the obscure "Late Spring." Although this was not the most famous edition of The Messengers, it set a standard that its successors would uphold to, training its members to be bandleaders in their own right. The music on this album is typical hard bop of the period, well played and full of enthusiasm and fire.

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Midnight Session

The Jazz Messengers
Midnight Session

01. Casino 4:58
02. The 'Biddie Griddies' 5:54
03. Potpourri 4:19
04. Ugh! 5:31
05. Mirage 4:38
06. Reflections Of Buhainia 6:42

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky DeBrest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam Dockery
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

Recorded New York, 1957

One of the rarest Art Blakey sessions of the late 50s – recorded during that brief time when the Jazz Messengers featured Jackie McLean on alto sax! The set's also unusual in that it's one of the few jazz dates for Elektra Records in the early years – recorded here with an edge that's perhaps a bit rougher than some of the other Blakey records during this "many labels" stretch – but in a way that seems to also bring out some especially great qualities in McLean's horn!

To be honest, I'm infatuated with Jackie McLean at the moment. I heard him on Freddie Redd's "Shades of Redd" with Tina Brooks and was blown away. (I can't figure why McLean is not a household name, in the same breath as Parker and Coltrane. Awesome!) So, after buying every cd I could with McLean's name on it, I started tracking down *anything* he played on. (-Which is a pretty long list) Said titles are disappearing fast, and this is a good one. A 1957 blowing session, this is Blakey just getting rolling with the Messengers. Granted, everyone on this disc would have far superior outings later in their careers, but if you want a killer bop date representing some great players cutting their teeth, pick this up while you still can.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

The Jazz Messengers - 1957 - Ritual

The Jazz Messengers 

01. Sam's Tune 5:50
02. Scotch Blues 8:40
03. Once Upon A Groove 8:36
04. Comments By Art Blakey 1:54
05. Ritual 9:59
06. Touche 6:15
07. Wake Up 5:03

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky DeBrest
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Sam Dockery
Trumpet – Bill Hardiman

This album was produced for Pacific Jazz by George Avakian in exchange for a Chet Baker album produced for Columbia Records by Richard Bock

It is Blakey’s album, and features in a long drum solo “Ritual” with a “search for my roots” narrative from Art Blakey about idealised primitive Nigerian village life;  hunting / girl-chasing / and the central role of collective drumming as a form of story-telling. Modern Nigeria of the Sixties was also home of often-imprisoned Fela Kuti, who offered a slightly different take on this former British colony. A country riven with ethno-tribal tensions – Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa and Fulani – resulting in a civil war, ruled over a decade by a military junta, and an elite in Africa as it’s main oil-producing country: a far cry from Blakey’s primitives. The introduction narrative by Art Blakey is here.

Interesting, uneven '57 date that contains a lengthy drum piece by Blakey. This was not his greatest group, although alto saxophonist Jackie McLean was among the hardest blowers he ever employed. Bassist Spanky Debrest and trumpeter Bill Hardman were good musicians, but a notch below the others who filled their roles in future Messenger editions.

This is not, from afar, one of the best line-ups of the highest Messengers era, which last from middle fifties to middle sixties. Are gone the days with Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver, Donald Byrd and Hank Mobley (who returned briefly in the late fifties), and still had to arrive the days with Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter. But here Jackie McLean shines with his usual fluency and vitality.

The Jazz Mesengers - 1956 - At The Cafe Bohemia Vol. 2

The Jazz Mesengers
At The Cafe Bohemia Vol. 2

Original Blue Note BLP 1508

01. Introduction By Art Blakey
02. Sportin' Crowd
03. Like Someone In Love
04. Yesterdays
05. Avila And Tequila
06. I Waited For You

Cd Reissue:

01. Announcement By Art Blakey
02. Sportin` Crowd
03. Like Someone In Love
04. Yesterdays
05. Avila And Tequila
06. I Waited For You
07. Just One Of Those Things
08. Hank`S Symphony
09. Gone With The Wind

Bass – Doug Watkins
Piano – Horace Silver
Drums - Art Blakey
Tenor Saxophone – Hank Mobley
Trumpet – Kenny Dorham

Recorded live on November 23, 1955.

Volume deux of the 1955 Cafe Bohemia sessions from Art Blakey's second edition Jazz Messengers is better than the first. The music is more energetic, cohesive, and pushes the hard bop farther. Where the first volume featured compositions of newly recruited trumpeter Kenny Dorham, it is tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley asserting himself on the bandstand with his set pieces that formed the foundation of the first studio edition of the quintet that included Donald Byrd. Here, Mobley does not defer to Dorham, pushing his sound forward without compromising his vision. "Sportin' Crowd" is definitely an ear opener, a straight-ahead, hard bop gem based on the changes of the Sonny Rollins' classic "Tenor Madness." A live version of "Hank's Symphony" -- recapitulated from the studio version on the original Jazz Messengers' LP for the Columbia label -- has an Asian and calypso flair with many accented notes and a secondary melody. The killer track is Mobley's "Avila & Tequila," drenched in Blakey's churning Afro-Cuban beats, filled with multiple modal devices especially from Horace Silver, and charges ahead as if there was no tomorrow -- a truly memorable and vital performance. The other tracks may seem to pale by comparison, but the easy, bluesy "Like Someone in Love," a short ballad version of "Yesterdays" finally featuring trumpeter Dorham, and Mobley's luscious tenor during the ultimate tearjerker "I Waited for You" offer stark contrast while losing no internal intensity. It is on "Just One of Those Things" where the band really straightens up and convenes in tandem, a solid cohesion where Dorham and Mobley work like an effortless, major league shortstop and second base double-play combination. "Gone with the Wind" finishes this set in soulful, legato, dispassionate refrains. This is a more consistent effort than the first volume, with a much anticipated, late-night set still on the horizon.

This is the second volume of the recordings the original Jazz Messengers lineup made at NYC's Cafe Bohemia on 11/23/1955. Although Art Blakey would lead many subsequent versions of the group following this lineup's breakup in 1956, most of which are very good, this first, cooperative lineup had a certain combination of power, swing, melodicism and bluesy feeling that was never quite captured again. Kenny Dorham (trumpet) and Hank Mobley (tenor sax) make a formidable front line, as well as providing two of its three main writers (the other being pianist Horace Silver, who would himself go on to a long illustrious solo career). The first three cuts along show their versatility within the then-emerging hard bop format, as they cook at a fast tempo on Mobley's "Sportin' Crowd", aka Sonny Rollins' "Tenor Madness"; hit a medium-paced groove on the standard "Like Someone In Love", and showcase Dorham's ballad style on "Yesterdays". There's also a taste of things to come for the Messengers on another Mobley composition, "Avila and Tequila", where the rest of the band (Dorham, Mobley, Silver and bassist Doug Watkins) play assorted percussion behind Blakey's drum solo. Blakey would adopt this for the early 60's lineup's arrangement of "A Night In Tunisia".

The Jazz Mesengers - 1956 - At The Cafe Bohemia Vol. 1

The Jazz Mesengers
At The Cafe Bohemia Vol. 1

Original Blue Note BLP 1507:

01. Soft Winds
02. The Theme
03. Minor's Holiday
04. Alone Together
05. Prince Albert


01. Announcement By Art Blakey 1:32
02. Soft Winds 12:34
03. The Theme 6:11
04. Minor's Holiday 9:11
05. Alone Together 4:15
06. Prince Albert 8:51
07. Lady Bird 7:30
08. What's New 4:31
09. Deciphering The Message 10:13

Bass – Doug Watkins
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Horace Silver
Tenor Saxophone – Hank Mobley
Trumpet – Kenny Dorham

Recorded on November 23, 1955 at the Café Bohemia, New York City.
These are mono recordings.
Tracks 1 to 6 originally released as BLP 1507.
Tracks 7 to 9 did not appear on the original LP.

This is Art Blakey's early period Jazz Messengers featuring trumpeter Kenny Dorham, saxophonist Hank Mobley, bassist Doug Watkins, and pianist Horace Silver. This first volume of live performance from the Cafe Bohemia in New York City circa late 1955 is a rousing set of hard bop by the masters who signified its sound, and expanded on the language of modern jazz. There are three bonus CD tracks not on the original LP that further emphasize not only the inherent power of Blakey's band and drumming, but demarcate the simplicity of melodic statements that were a springboard for the fantastic soloing by these individuals who would follow those tuneful lines. Dorham is responsible for this edict, as he contributes three of the selections, including the staccato-accented melody of "Minor's Holiday" primed by a thumping intro via Blakey, "Prince Albert" with its by now classic and clever reharmonization of "All the Things You Are," and the perennial closer of every set "The Theme," with its brief repeat melody and powerhouse triple-time bop break. Mobley wrote the scattered melody of "Deciphering the Message," heard here at length for the first time, although it was later available in its original shortened studio form on the reissued Columbia CD Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. The tenor man gets his feature on the quarter-speed slowed ballad version of "Alone Together," which altogether sounds pining and blue to the nth degree. Standards like Fletcher Henderson's "Soft Winds" seemed merely a simple and lengthy warmup tune, but Tadd Dameron's "Lady Bird" is an absolute workout, with variations abounding on the intro, first and second run-throughs of the melody, and some harmonic twists. Watkins is featured on the lead line of "What's New?," which again combines melancholy with that slightest spark of hope. If this is indeed in chronological order as a first set from the November 13, 1955 performances, it wets the whistle and leaves the listener wanting more, knowing the best is yet to come.

Cafe Bohemia... smoke in the air... glasses clanking... a small crowd of finely tuned listeners hoping to hear something memorable. Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Doug Watkins, Horace Silver and Art Blakey gave it to them!

Early Mobley is so interesting to me. He's not underdeveloped or anything like that, but he's more raw here. Where I tend to think things like "black satin" about his playing and tone on Soul Station or No Room for Squares, here he's more primal. More visceral. This isn't a criticism about one era or the other, just a comment. I love him in everything mentioned, just in different ways, for different reasons. He is awesome here. Unequivocally.

Kenny Dorham is in a bit of a development phase here... sometimes. A few times on this album you hear him thinking through his solos. You can sense him intellectually considering the contour of his solo as he's playing. It's not "bad" by any means, but it's not the peak of where you hope to be, as a musician. What did Charlie Parker say? First you learn your instrument. Then you learn the tunes. Then you go out on the bandstand to forget all that Shhht and play! Exactly. Exactly! Kenny wasn't quite THERE yet, at all times here. He was for a couple tracks, though. I'll let you find them for yourself. It's all just flowing out of him. He's not thinking at all. He's just a conduit for the music. Kenny seems to simply open a door and let the music fall out. Those are his peaks of the album.

Not enough can be said for the high sonic quality in which this date was recorded. That's certainly a big part of what makes this stuff great. Whether we're comparing this to Complete Jazz at Massey Hall (the best issue of that set) or Live in the World, this kills both of those. The sound here... the musicians' richness of tones comes right through. Only if you were there in the club that night could this music have sounded better.

This is one of my favorite albums by one of Blakey's best bands.

The Jazz Messengers - 1956 - The Jazz Messengers

The Jazz Messengers
The Jazz Messengers

01. Infra-Rae
02. Nica's Dream
03. It's You Or No One
04. Ecaroh
05. Carol's Interlude
06. The End Of A Love Affair
07. Hank's Symphony

08. Weird-O
09. Ill Wind
10. Late Show
11. Deciphering The Message
12. Carol's Interlude

Bass – Doug Watkins
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Horace Silver
Tenor Saxophone – Hank Mobley
Trumpet – Donald Byrd

Recorded April 6th, 1956 and May 4, 1956

Born in 1919, Art Blakey began his musical career, as did many jazz musicians, in the church. The foster son of a devout Seventh Day Adventist Family, Art learned the piano as he learned the Bible, mastering both at an early age.

But as Art himself told it so many times, his career on the piano ended at the wrong end of a pistol when the owner of the Democratic Club — the Pittsburgh nightclub where he was gigging — ordered him off the piano and onto the drums.

Art, then in his early teens and a budding pianist, was usurped by an equally young, Erroll Garner who, as it turned out, was as skilled at the piano as Blakey later was at the drums. The upset turned into a blessing for Art, launching a career that spanned six decades and nurtured the careers of countless other jazz musicians.

As a young drummer, Art came under the tutelage of legendary drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, serving as his valet. In 1937, Art returned to Pittsburgh, forming his own band, teaming up with Pianist Mary Lou Williams, under whose name the band performed.

From his Pittsburgh gig, Art made his way through the Jazz world. In 1939, he began a three-year gig touring with Fletcher Henderson. After a year in Boston with a steady gig at the Tic Toc club, he joined the great Billy Eckstine, gigging with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sarah Vaughn.

In 1948, Art told reporters he had visited Africa, where he learned polyrhythmic drumming and was introduced to Islam, taking the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. It was in the late ’40s that Art formed his first Jazz Messengers band, a 17-piece big band.

After a brief gig with Buddy DeFranco, in 1954 Art met up with pianist Horace Silver, altoist Lou Donaldson, trumpeter Clifford Brown, and bassist Curly Russell and recorded “live” at Birdland for Blue Note Records. The following year, Art and Horace Silver co-founded the quintet that became the Jazz Messengers. In 1956, Horace Silver left the band to form his own group leaving the name, the Jazz Messengers, to Art Blakey.

Art’s driving rhythms and his incessant two and four beat on the high hat cymbals were readily identifiable from the outset and remained a constant throughout 35 years of Jazz Messengers bands. What changed constantly was a seeming unending supply of talented sidemen, many of whom went on to become band leaders in their own right.

In the early years luminaries like Clifford Brown, Hank Mobley and Jackie McLean rounded out the band. In 1959, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson joined the quintet and — at Art’s behest — began working on the songbook and recruiting what became one of the timeless Messenger bands — tenor saxman Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymmie Merritt.

The songs produced from ’59 through the early ’60s became trademarks for the Messengers — including Timmon’s Moanin’, Golson’s Along Came Betty and Blues March and Shorter’s Ping Pong.

By this time, the Messengers had become a mainstay on the jazz club circuit and began recording on Blue Note Records. They began touring Europe, with forays into North Africa. In 1960, the Messengers became the first American Jazz band to play in Japan for Japanese audiences. That first Japanese tour was a high point for the band. At the Tokyo airport, the band was greeted by hundreds of fans as Blues March played over their airport intercom and their visit was televised nationally.

In 1961, trombonist Curtis Fuller transformed the Messengers into a proper sextet, giving the band the opportunity to incorporate a big band sound into their hard bop repertoire. Throughout the ’60s, the Messengers remained a mainstay on the jazz scene with jazz greats including Cedar Walton, Chuck Mangione, Keith Jarrett, Reggie Workman, Lucky Thompson and John Hicks. In the jazz drought of the ’70s, the Messengers remained a strong force, with fewer recordings, but no less energy. At a time when many jazz musicians were experimenting with electronics and fusing their music with pop, the Messengers were a mainstay of straight-ahead jazz.

Art’s steadfast belief in jazz music left him well positioned to take advantage of the music’s resurgence in the early ’80s. Art had been working with musicians including trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, tenor Billy Pierce, alto saxman Bobby Watson and pianist James Williams. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis’ 1980 entrance into the band coincided — and played no small part in — the resurgence of the music in the ’80s.

Throughout the ’80 and until his death in 1990, Art maintained the integrity of the message, incubating the careers of musicians including trumpeters Wallace Rooney and Terence Blanchard, pianists Mulgrew Miller and Donald Brown, bassists Peter Washington and Lonnie Plaxico and many others.

Art died at the age of 71 after a career that spanned six of the best decades of jazz music. The messenger has moved on, but his message lives on in the music of the scores of sidemen whose careers he nurtured, the many other drummers he mentored and countless fans who have been blessed to hear the Messengers’ music.

The very first edition of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers was unfortunately short-lived, and as excellent as they were collectively, it was the beginning of a trend for the members of this group to come and go. Unbeknown to Blakey at the time, he would become a champion for bringing talent from the high minor leagues to full-blown jazz-star status, starting with this band featuring Detroit trumpeter Donald Byrd, East coast tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, and pianist Horace Silver, a jazz legend ever after. It's evident that although there is much cohesion in the group, Byrd's star was on the rise the fastest, and he would leave shortly, replaced briefly by Clifford Brown, then Kenny Dorham. What is most remarkable in this first recording for the band is how several of these selections have become classic hard bop vehicles, revered and replayed by thousands of bands worldwide. "Nica's Dream" is the best known of them all, typical of the calypso beats Blakey favored at the time, with a singsong, hummable melody led by Byrd that is pure soul personified and drenched in unrequited blues. Their take of "The End of a Love Affair" is one of those arrangements that would be hard to top, filled with deft rhythm changes and a distinctive group signature sound identified by the Mobley-Byrd tandem. "Ecaroh" ("Horace" spelled backwards) keeps the Latin beat but puts in a breezier context, a simple beauty of a tune only the pianist and Blakey could have conceived, and called their own at the time. "Infra Rae" is a quintessential hard bop workout, and "Hank's Symphony," while not a classic, is innovative in that it uses an Asian-inspired introduction, an Afro-Cuban base, and a force like a wild hurricane via Blakey's fast, inspired, cut-loose drumming. In retrospect, the Jazz Messengers could easily be tagged the eighth wonder of the world, starting with this finely crafted first effort that definitely stands the test of time.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Manhattan Blaze - 1979 - Venus Eyes

Manhattan Blaze 
Venus Eyes

01. Venus Eyes 5:44
02. Moon 6:36
03. Demon Upstairs 6:52
04. We'Fe 7:01
05. The Answer Is Love 6:42
06. Louisiana Strut 8:10

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Frank Strozier
Bass – Alex Blake
Cello – Akua Dixon, Clarissa Howell
Drums – Idris Muhammad
French Horn – Vincent Chancey
Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Percussion – Ray Mantella
Piano, Electric Piano [Elepian] – Hilton Ruiz
Reeds – John Stubblefield
Tenor Saxophone, Flute – Ron Bridgewater
Trombone – Earl McIntyre, Emmet McDonald
Trumpet – Charles Sullivan, Earl Gardner, Eddie Henderson, Frank Gordon
Vibraphone, Directed By – Joe Chambers
Viola – Charles Dalton, Maxine Roach
Violin – Melvyn Roundtree, Sandra Billingslea, Stanley Hunte, Valerie Collymore, Winston Collymore, Wint Garvey

Recorded and mixed at Sound Ideas Studios, New York City, October, 1978.

A rare fusion set from 70s Japan – but one that's cut by an American group of ultra-hip musicians! The set's a unique outing for an ensemble that features John Stubblefield on saxes, Hilton Ruiz on piano and keyboards, Eddie Henderson on trumpet, and Idris Muhammad on drums – a lineup that makes music here that's every bit as great as you'd expect – especially if you already dig their 70s recordings from the US! Bits of Latin sneak in and really create a complex set of rhythms underneath tighter fusion charts – and the set also features some added horns and strings, which give some of the grooves a nicely sophisticated vibe. 

Kazumi Watanabe with Manhattan Blaze - 1978 - Village in Bubbles

Kazumi Watanabe with Manhattan Blaze
Village in Bubbles

01. Park Avenue 5:27
02. Dance Of Corona 7:52
03. Village In Bubbles 8:40
04. Magic Carpet 9:58
05. Mustache Daddy 5:40
06. Crystal Rain 6:07

Kazumi Watanabe : electric/acoustic guitar
Yoshiaki Masuo : electric guitar
Mickey Tucker : acoustic piano, Fender Rhodes
Alex Blake : electric/acoustic bass
Idris Muhammad : drums
Ray Mantilla : percussion
No-Bu : percussion
Joe Chambers : drums
Greg Woods : synthesizer programming
trumpet : Jon Faddis, Earl Gardner
Frank Gordon, Virgil Jones
french horn : Greg Williams
trombone : Earl McKintyre, Janice Robinson
tenor saxophone : Ron Bridgewater
alto saxophone, flute : Frank Strozier
violin : Sandra Billingslea, John Blake
Winston Collymore, Gayle Dixon
Carl Ector, Melvin Roundtree
George Taylor
viola : Charles Dahon, Sharon Ray
Maxine Roach
cello : Akua Dixon, Clarissa Howell
Ulysses Kirksey

Japan in the 1970s, the era when the word fusion was born. Just in Japan, which was being swept by Littner and Larry Carlton, did such a guitarist exist in Japan? This is one of the best masterpieces of the Japan Fusion Society, which can be said to be the gospel of the guitar kid at that time. When I hear Lonesome Cat and Olive Steps, I guess I'm the only one who seems to be able to get back what I left in the 70's.

Monty Waters - 1975 - The Black Cat

Monty Waters
The Black Cat 

01. J. Love March 7:07
02. Bog's Blues 10:09
03. Apt. 2H 9:06
04. Modesto 11:08
05. The Black Cat 11:31
06. R.P.M. 13:52

Recorded August 12, 1975 at Vanguard Studios, N.Y.C.

Monty Waters — Sax (Alto)
Yoshiaki Masuo — Guitar
Ronnie Boykins — Bass
George Avaloz — Drums

I first heard alto saxist Monty Waters on the Joe lee Wilson and Bond Street album, What Would It be Without You. I love Joe Lee Wilson (and have blogged about his music) and liked what I heard of Waters, but I could never find much music by him. It turns out that he spent  a good many years of his later career in Munich, where he did record, but he never got much of a shot in the U.S. Like many practitioners of America’s greatest gift to world culture, he’s been neglected in his own country. Fortunately, he was recorded in 1975 by the Japanese WhyNot label, now re-released on CD by Candid Records.

Monnville Charles (Monty) Waters was born in Modesto, California on April 14th 1938 and passed away in Munich on December 22nd 2008. Another of Jazz's unsung heroes, his death went virtually unnoticed by the international jazz community, as indeed had most of his career. The saxophonist didn't even rate a mention in the All Music Guide To Jazz and most of the standard reference books. This is indeed regrettable as Monty was clearly an artist of consummate talent in both his playing and writing ability. Monty studied music at Modesto High and cut his teeth in the vibrant R&B scene in the late 50's touring with the bands of B.B King, Little Richard, James Brown and others before switching coasts to play in New York with the likes of Woody Shaw, Jaki Byard, Elvin Jones and Art Blakey where he gradually became involved in the emerging 'Loft Scene.' Monty and his associates on Black Cat all display considerable skill and panache and achieve a remarkable empathy on all of Monty's six original tunes. Throughout the set guitarist Yoshiaki Masuo, bassist Ronnie Boykins and drummer George Avaloz achieve a rare intimacy as they weave in and out of the proceedings to startling effect. Waters' very personal alto is airy, floating and fluid. His playing has a plaintive bluesy quality which just grows on you. His swinging, narrative style has been described as "being likely to outlast all that intellectual blasting of notes - 'emotionalism' without emotion...."

The Black Cat is an excellent date, featuring Waters, guitarist Yoshihaki Masuo, bassist Ronnie Boykins, and drummer George Avaloz. Waters also composed all of the tunes. They’re really equal partners here, notably on J. Love March, a slightly eccentric jazz march with a good deal of collective improvisation. Waters has a lot of Ornette Coleman in his playing, particularly notable on the two blues tracks—Bog’s Blues and Modesto—but tempered with a more disciplined Steve Lacy-like tone.  It’s a strong combination. Apt. #2H, a reworking of Giant Steps, the title track, and R.P.M. all serve as vehicles for Waters, an impressively melodic Masuo, and standout solo work by Boykins.

Richard Beirach, Terumasa Hino, Yoshiaki Masuo - 1976 - Zal

Richard Beirach, Terumasa Hino, Yoshiaki Masuo

01. Mavrodaphne 6:13
02. Broken Wing 4:38
03. Yesterdays 6:31
04. Zal 7:02
05. Black Is The Color Of My True Love's Hair 4:15
06. What Is This Thing Called Love 8:58

Flugelhorn, Trumpet – Terumasa Hino
Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Piano – Richard Beirach

I had heard of this album but never gave it much thought until I stumbled across it on the net. Amazon prime had a new copy and was letting it go for $4! Naturally I snapped it up. And it's not just a good example of early Richie-it's great. There's a wonderful consistent mood on this album. It flows from the guitar duos into the flugelhorn duos perfectly. You get to hear some of Beirach's great originals, Broken wing and the lesser known Zal and the dreamy Mavrodaphne. Beirach's penchant for exploring certain standards like Yesterdays and What is this Thing are nicely represented here. I love his interpretation of Black is the Color. He may have been the first to take it in this direction.

Also, I have to say the sound of this 1976 release is nothing short of amazing. It was released in 2006. The remastering makes it sound like an ECM recording. I'm not exaggerating. Supposedly recorded in Richie's home studio, it was actually recorded by David Baker and judging from the audio, in a pro studio. It sounds way too good for a home recording.

If you can find this at a decent price, I urge any fans of Richie Beirach to pick up a copy of this rare album.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Yoshiaki Masuo & Joe Chambers - 1981 - New York Concerto

Yoshiaki Masuo & Joe Chambers
New York Concerto

01. Irina 6:26
02. Two Hearts 3:28
03. Like Sonny 4:40
04. Visions 5:48
05. A Night Has A Thousand Eyes 5:03
06. Concerto De Aranjuez 15:14
07. Dhabihu 2:53
08. Autumn In New York 6:29

Alto Saxophone, Flute – Sonny Fortune
Bass – Eddie Gomez
Drums, Vibraphone– Joe Chambers
Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Percussion – Ray Mantilla
Piano, Electric Piano – Kenny Barron

Recorded June 11 & 12 at Van Gelder Studio, New Jersey

Yoshiaki Masuo & Jan Hammer - 1980 - Finger Dancing

Yoshiaki Masuo & Jan Hammer
Finger Dancing

01. Waiting No More
02. All Right
03. Young Filly
04. Let Us Go
05. A Little Bit More
06. Sunshine Avenue

Drums – Tony Cintron, Jr.
Electric Bass – Russel Blake
Electric Guitar – Yoshiaki Masuo
Keyboards [Oberheim, Mini Moog, Yamaha Cp70] – Jan Hammer

Yoshiaki Masuo - 1980 - Masuo Live

Yoshiaki Masuo
Masuo Live

01. Dealing With Life 7:33
02. Good Morning 6:31
03. Look Away From Me / A Threesome 8:38
04. I Will Find A Place / Viento Fresco 25:53

Drums – Robbie Gonzales
Electric Bass – T.M. Stevens
Electric Guitar – Motoaki Masuo, Yoshiaki Masuo
Electric Piano, Organ – Victor Bruce Godsey
Percussion, Synthesizer – Shirley

Yoshiaki Masuo - 1979 - Sunshine Avenue

Yoshiaki Masuo 
Sunshine Avenue

01. Sunshine Avenue
02. Your Love Is Never Ending
03. A Threesome
04. Look To Me (And See The Sun)
05. Someone
06. I Will Find A Place

YOSHIAKI MASUO (el.g, ac.g, solina, perc)
VICTOR BRUCE GODSEY (ac.p, el.p, clavinet, vocal)
T.M. STEVENS (el.b , piccolo bass)

Recorded at Electric Lady Studios, NY 1979

Yoshiaki Masuo - 1979 - Good Morning

Yoshiaki Masuo 
Good Morning

01. (I'm Still) Believing In Dreams
02. Good Morning
03. Because Of You
04. Inside Love
05. Little Bit
06. Dealing With Life
07. Little Bit More

Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Synthesizer – Motoaki Masuo
Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Synthesizer, Percussion, Vocals – Yoshiaki Masuo
Backing Vocals – Josan
Drums, Congas – Robbie Gonzales
Electric Bass, Bass [Piccolo] – T.M. Stevens
Harp – Margaret Ross
Organ [Hammond] – Delie
Percussion – Shirley Masuo
Piano, Electric Piano – Victor Bruce Godsey

Fusion heyday 80s. . . The catch phrase on the LP band of this work was written, such as opening the dawn of the 1980s. This work itself was produced in the late 70's, but the wakamonos at the time praised that `` Masu of the world '' was not at all defeated by international leaders such as Lee Ritner and Larry Carlton, I heard this work. With this, when I listen to it, there is even an atmosphere that is “modern” or cool.

Beginning with a large-scale song “(I'M STILL) BELIEVING IN DREAMS” that decorates the opening beautifully, it continues to the title tune where even a magnificent feeling is felt and a beautiful morning is imaged. Up to 3 songs were on the A side of the LP. The B side was good, but I remember the memories of repeating the A side in the LP era. Even the fusion album at the time when hits appeared one after another, I think that it was the highest standard work. Still a masterpiece! And exhilaration is outstanding.

In the 70's, I was in the Progressive Rock Party in a copy band of Jesus, but this work that I encountered after becoming an adult was somewhat shocking. Creating exhilarating sound with high sensitivity and skill and comfort in Japanese. . . The album "Sailing wonder", released two years ago, was hit with the support of Dave Grusin and "MASUO" was already famous, but this album was a better work, and I was more complete. I thought it was a wonderful work.

If you buy one piece of "Masu of the world", I think that this is it. When I was a young man, I purchased several LPs before and after, but I became an old man and bought this one. It is a piece of emotional reunion after 30 years.
Early 80's. . . It is a "fusion masterpiece created by the Japanese" that captivated the young people of Japan at the time. It is a masterpiece!