Tuesday, January 28, 2020

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.