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.