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Live Reviews

The Music of Art Blakey: 90th Birthday Celebration at the Iridium, NYC

By Published: December 26, 2009

The last two songs were easily the highlights of the evening. "Arabia" proved a hard-driving up-tempo tune more typical of the Jazz Messengers. It was played with real fire and served to energize the audience. The featured soloists included Marshall on the baritone, a surprisingly funky and full-bodied Curtis Fuller on trombone solo, and a very soulful Javon Jackson

Javon Jackson
Javon Jackson
b.1965
saxophone
on tenor. The final number, "Yes I Can," was a vehicle for brilliant alto work by Donald Harrison
Donald Harrison
Donald Harrison
b.1960
sax, alto
. He was the only featured soloist and played a breath-taking solo that was as impressive for its stylistic diversity, from bop to funk, as it was for its fluidity and coherence. Harrison began his career as a member of one of the latter-day editions of the Jazz Messengers in the early 1980s. Harrison, who has explored music that stretches beyond jazz into somewhat more commercial realms, left no question about whether he still has major jazz chops, delivering a solo that was definitely the most memorable moment of the evening.

In the review, Chinen was somewhat critical of the rhythm section—more of sound mix than performance. However, Saturday's was a different unit, with Peter Washington

replacing Stephen Scott
Stephen Scott
Stephen Scott
b.1850
piano
stepping in for Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
Mulgrew Miller
1955 - 2013
piano
. The pair proved a tight and sympathetic supporting crew in addition to serving up creative solos individually (though only Scott was given the opportunity to really stretch out). Veteran Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes
Louis Hayes
b.1937
drums
was a steady rhythmic presence on drums. He is not the hard-driving or volcanic soloist that Blakey was in his day. But at 72 years of age (and looking no older than 50), he plays like he did in his salad days with {{Cannonball Adderley = 3270}.

I was seated next to a lady from Los Angeles who was accompanied by her 16-year-old son, a budding jazz guitarist. He was simply awestruck by the talent on the stage, having never experienced anything like this in his life. His enthusiasm was irrepressible—much like the impact of hearing the original Messengers in person.



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