Many fans with tuned-in ears rate Blakey and Blue Note as the ultimate in Jazz talent-spotting - and his Jazz Messengers were their Academy of Excellence. Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton, Wayne Shorter, Feddie Hubbard, Hank Mobley, Curtis Fuller, Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons all became Messengers, in front of one of the presiding geniuses of hard bop. Blakey ruled the drum stool from the inception of the band in the mid-Fifties to the end of the line in the late Eighties, and in the absence of a massive boxset covering all the many line-ups' output, this complete reissue of 1959's sublime Africaine is a reminder of how productive a little creative tension can be.
The sessions for Africaine - recorded in 1959 but not released until 1979 - saw innovative young tenorist Shorter linked with the equally forward-looking trumpet of Lee Morgan for the first time on record, set against the efforts of producer Alfred Lion to shape another commercial hit to match Blakey's breakthrough with Moanin'. What he got instead was a showcase for two hot young horn players and composers burning ideas and talent over the uniquely wide-screen Blakey percussion style, all anchored by Walter Davis' s low-key, self-effacing and supportive blues piano.
This first CD release for Africaine - as part of Blue Note's 60th anniversary programme - does what Blakey always wanted for his music and his Messengers. It captures a transitory creative coalition at a peak moment, and keeps the fruit of their imaginations and skill as something timeless, elegant and brave.
Players: Lee Morgan - tpt, Wayne Shorter - sax, Walter Davis Jr - piano, Jymie Merritt - bass, Art Blakey - drums, Dizzy Reece - congas.
Tracks: Africaine, Lester Left Town, Splendid, Haina, The Midget, Celine