Arguably one of the best bands to ever be assembled under the Jazz Messengers moniker, drummer Art Blakey’s crew from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s included such legendary figures as Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, and Bobby Timmons. Blue Note producer Alfred Lion surely knew he had a good thing going because he kept these guys extremely busy in Rudy Van Gelder’s studio, recording more material than ultimately the market could afford to bear. As a result, the performances that are included on Roots and Herbs were not issued until many years after the fact, not to surface again until Mosaic’s now out-of-print boxed set appeared a few years back.
The fact that this music was delayed in being released should in no way suggest that it is inferior to that which found its way to the market in a timely fashion because Roots and Herbs contains some of the best Jazz Messenger work of the period, particularly in light of Wayne Shorter’s immeasurable writing contributions. For starters, there’s the brisk Charleston vamp that propels the head of "Ping Pong," not to be outdone by the classic "United," a tune which has inspired other interpretations over the years from such players as Woody Shaw and pianist George Colligan.
As strong as the material is here, additionally the soloists are nothing short of being profound. Morgan is his usual fiery self, while Shorter unleashes some searing improvisations of his own, using textural nuances to great effect. As a bonus, there are three additional tracks included on the disc, including alternate versions of "United," with Walter Davis, Jr. spelling Timmons on piano, and "Ping Pong." New 24-bit remastering brings further sonic clarity that even surpasses the job Mosaic did for the previously mentioned boxed set, making this the definitive reissue of some quintessential material.
Track Listing: Ping Pong, Roots & Herbs, The Back Sliders, United, Look at the Birdie, Master Mind, The Back Sliders (alt. take), Ping Pong (alt. version), United (alt. version) (62:09)
Personnel: Lee Morgan- trumpet, Wayne Shorter- tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons- piano, Walter Davis, Jr.- piano (tracks 2 & 4 only), Jymie Merritt- bass, Art Blakey- drums