Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: 'S Make It (2004)
The Blue Note Jazz Messengers recordings are so highly regarded that the ones the group did for other labels at around the same time tend to fall by the wayside. This shouldn't be the case; Blakey was such a determined taskmaster that he was able to get great performances out of his players on just about every occasion.
1964's 'S Make It features a transitional Messengers lineup, with Morgan returning to the fold and John Gilmore as the wild card in his only appearance with the band. They join current member Curtis Fuller in the front line on the expected tight playing over the gospel-tinged romps that were par for the course in the early days of Blakey's groups. John Hicks infuses the title track with a soulful groove that Bobby Timmons would be proud to call his own while Morgan fires up solos of flatted fifths and smears that he perfected on his Blue Note albums. Fuller, of course, follows along nicely and Gilmore may surprise those who only know him from Sun Ra's Arkestra with his ability to match the other two in the front line with a robust, bar-walking style.
The first part of this album is pretty typical fare, but the last two songs are a different beast altogether. Both are smoky ballads that are essentially showcases for Morgan, who plays with a tenderness and subtlety that he often isn't given credit for. Blakey, as always, provides leadership by not being a showman but giving his sidemen the support they need to shine.
'S Make It is a fine Messengers album and a good example of the drummer's consistently satisfying work.
Track Listing: 1. Faith 2. 'S Make It 3. Waltz For Ruth 4. One For Gamal 5. Little Hughie 6. Olympia 7. Lament for Stacy.
Personnel: Art Blakey - drums; Lee Morgan - trumpet; Curtis Fuller -trombone; John Gilmore - tenor sax; John Hicks - piano; Victor Sproles - bass.