Many of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers left the group to build successful careers of their own. However, in between Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter and the Marsalises was this curious 1968 band, made up largely of talented unknowns. This particular version of the band never made it into the studio, and this live recording from Slug's in New York City is only one of two recordings of this band know to exist.
Those who are well versed in jazz will surely recognize a few of the names, such as trombonist Julian Priester and pianist Ronnie Mathews, and those who have at least a passing knowledge of the Jazz Messengers know that Blakey was able to bring out the best in everyone who surrounded him. This outing is no exception. These four tunes (one standard, two written by recent defector Slide Hampton, and the perennial Monk tune "Theme ) feature the same sense of propulsion and urgency that drives all the classic Blakey albums, and the three-horn front line sure delivers like the other more famous alums. Of special note are Lawrence Evans' spectacular bass solos, featuring the avant-garde techniques favored by Charlie Haden and Jimmy Garrison.
Although the sound is a bit muddled, the playing clearly isn't. This is a rare treasure for those Blakey fans who have it all.
Personnel: Art Blakey: drums; Ronnie Mathews: piano; Lawrence EVans: bass; Bill Hardman: trumpet; Julian Priester: trombone; Billy Harper: tenor saxophone.