Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: The Sesjun Radio Shows (2011)

By Published: | 5,669 views
How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: The Sesjun Radio Shows
The old and irksome "but is it jazz" argument has probably never been brought into play when it comes to drummer/bandleader Art Blakey (1919-1990) and his ever-changing line-up of The Jazz Messengers. The music Blakey and his usually young players made was most certainly jazz, of the hard bop, hard-charging variety—brash and brightly hued, and joyously swinging.

The Jazz Messengers, active from the early 1950s until the mid-'80s, was an on-the-job Jazz university, graduating such luminaries as Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
Clifford Brown
1930 - 1956
trumpet
, Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
Curtis Fuller
b.1934
trombone
, Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
Lee Morgan
1938 - 1972
trumpet
, Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
, Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
Branford Marsalis
b.1960
saxophone
and Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
Wynton Marsalis
b.1961
trumpet
, Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
Donald Byrd
1932 - 2013
trumpet
, Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
Hank Mobley
1930 - 1986
sax, tenor
and Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
, Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
Bobby Timmons
1935 - 1974
piano
.

The Sesjun Radio Shows captures later stage Blakey bands, recorded live for the Dutch radio show Tros Sesjun in 1978, 1980, and 1983. The star level of the personnel may not be as high as earlier Messenger configurations, but the music remains remarkably consistent under Blakey's taskmaster leadership.

The first set, broadcast in December, 1978, opens with alto saxophonist Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
Bobby Watson
b.1953
sax, alto
's "Time Will Tell." Another Blakey trait was his ability to mine his band members' songwriting skills for his group. The tune is bright and up-tempo, rolling in on some unison trumpet/alto blowing, before Watson sears into a hot sax solo, demonstrating another Blakey band characteristic: these guys solo with supreme confidence. The three horn men in the front line each get their turns—Watson, trumpeter Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
Valery Ponomarev
b.1943
trumpet
and tenor saxophonist David Schnitter—while behind them, the rest of the Messengers maintain a steady, high-speed cruise control.

Some of the more familiar tunes offered up on the three sets include Benny Golson
Benny Golson
Benny Golson
b.1929
sax, tenor
's "Along Came Betty," the classic "Stairway to the Stars," Shorter's "Free for All," the Great American Songbook jewel "Polka Dots and Moonbeams," and, of course, Blakey's signature song, "Moanin,'" from the pen of Bobby Timmons.

Of special note is the third set, four tunes that feature trumpeter Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
Terence Blanchard
b.1962
trumpet
, who doubled as musical director when Blakey's drinking began interfere with his ability in that area (though not in his playing). The band sounds a bit smoother and more together here, more refined, the "hard" in the hard bop polished down just a bit, with everybody—Blakey included—in the finest of form.

Track Listing: CD1: Time Will Tell; E.T.A.; My One and Only Love; Dr. J.; Evaline; Along Came Betty; Stairway to the Stars; Free for All. CD2: Blues March; 1977 A.D.; Little Man; Polka Dots and Moonbeams; Moanin'; The Theme.

Personnel: Art Blakey: drums;David Schnitter: tenor sax (CD1#1-5); Valery Ponomarev: trumpet (CD1#1-8; CD2#1-2); Bobby Watson: alto sax (CD1#1-8; CD2#1-2); James Williams: piano: CD1#1-8; CD2#1-2); Dennis Irwin: bass (CD1#1-6); Billy Pierce: tenor sax (CD1#7-8; CD2#1-2); Charles Fambrough: bass (CD1#7-8; CD2#1-6); Jean Toussaint: trumpet (CD2#3-6); Terence Blanchard: trumpet (CD2#3-6); Donald Harrison: alto sax (CD2#3-6); Johnny O'Neal: piano (CD2#3-6).

Record Label: Naxos

Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


comments powered by Disqus
Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW

Enter it twice.
To the weekly jazz events calendar

Enter the numbers in the graphic
Enter the code in this picture

Log in

One moment, you will be redirected shortly.

or search site with Google