Dear All About Jazz Readers,

If you're familiar with All About Jazz, you know that we've dedicated over two decades to supporting jazz as an art form, and more importantly, the creative musicians who make it. Our enduring commitment has made All About Jazz one of the most culturally important websites of its kind in the world reaching hundreds of thousands of readers every month. However, to expand our offerings and develop new means to foster jazz discovery we need your help.

You can become a sustaining member for a modest $20 and in return, we'll immediately hide those pesky Google ads PLUS deliver exclusive content and provide access to future articles for a full year! This combination will not only improve your AAJ experience, it will allow us to continue to rigorously build on the great work we first started in 1995. Read on to view our project ideas...

13

Art Blakey: Art Blakey: A Night in Tunisia – 1961

Marc Davis By

Sign in to view read count
There are other great Messenger albums, but this may be the perfect combination of great personnel and the greatest bop tune of all time.
Dizzy Gillespie's "A Night in Tunisia" has been done almost to death. Wikipedia says it has been recorded at least 500 times and it is the title track to at least 30 albums. It might be the most recorded bop tune of all time.

Who did it best? Take your pick.

Dizzy himself recorded many hot versions. All are good and some are great. Charlie Parker and Miles Davis can claim one of the earliest and best. The song comes in many flavors. There are slow draggy versions, superheated incendiary versions, and vocal versions. Ella Fitzgerald had a great take. So did Lambert, Hendricks & Ross.

But the very best? My money is on Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers on the album of the same name.

Recorded in 1960 and released in 1961, A Night in Tunisia is the Jazz Messengers at their absolute peak. This is the version with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass and, of course, Blakey on drums. A five-star combo? How about six?

There are six terrific songs on A Night in Tunisia, filled with amazing solos. But the tune you want is the 11-minute title cut, the opener. It is a house on fire, filled with unexpected twists and turns.

Blakey starts with a crazy-wild drum solo, then a duel with the bass. Finally, after a minute and a half, just when you're wondering if the song will ever begin, here comes the piano and sax, and only then the opening theme on trumpet. And then... we're off to the races!

This may be the fastest "Night in Tunisia" ever recorded. Shorter—a very young man, still a few years away from his own groundbreaking Blue Note albums—turns up the flames with a very Bird-like solo, which segues into more breakneck pyrotechnics from Morgan's trumpet. The bass goes crazy. Blakey inserts a rattlesnake rhythm, then starts his own trademarked bashing bombast.

At eight minutes, just when you think the song is about to end with a restatement of the theme—surprise! Morgan goes off the rails with an inspired, unaccompanied solo. Then Shorter with his own unaccompanied solo. It is sublime. And finally—finally!—the whole band jumps in and bring the song to a crashing finale.

And that's just the start. A Night in Tunisia is filled with delights. A waltz that is anything but Strauss-ian. A song called "So Tired" that, contrary to the title, is surprisingly up-tempo. And finally, a version of "When Your Lover Has Gone" that is more of a toe-tapper and less like the familiar ballad by Billie Holiday or Frank Sinatra.

When I think of Blue Note Records, I immediately think of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. And when I think of the Messengers, I think of A Night in Tunisia. There are other great Messenger albums—indeed, there are no bad ones—but this may be the perfect combination of great personnel and the greatest bop tune of all time. Get it.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

Availability: Very easy to find

Cost: $5 used, $10 new

Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

Shop Music & Tickets

Click any of the store links below and you'll support All About Jazz in the process. Learn how.

Related Articles

Read My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music? My Blue Note Obsession
My Fats Waller Obsession: Why Do We Collect Music?
by Marc Davis
Published: May 31, 2017
Read Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental - 1962 My Blue Note Obsession
Ike Quebec: Blue & Sentimental - 1962
by Marc Davis
Published: May 14, 2017
Read Jack Wilson: Something Personal – 1966 My Blue Note Obsession
Jack Wilson: Something Personal – 1966
by Marc Davis
Published: May 1, 2017
Read Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap – 1973 My Blue Note Obsession
Ronnie Foster: Two Headed Freap – 1973
by Marc Davis
Published: April 18, 2017
Read Bud Powell: The Scene Changes - 1958 My Blue Note Obsession
Bud Powell: The Scene Changes - 1958
by Marc Davis
Published: April 4, 2017
Read Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959 My Blue Note Obsession
Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup - 1959
by Marc Davis
Published: March 21, 2017
Read "Gordon Au: Untraditionally Mad About Trad" Catching Up With Gordon Au: Untraditionally Mad About Trad
by Nicholas F. Mondello
Published: September 21, 2018
Read "Two Sides of Marc Copland: Quartet and Solo" Multiple Reviews Two Sides of Marc Copland: Quartet and Solo
by Jakob Baekgaard
Published: February 25, 2018
Read "2018 Newport Jazz Festival" In Pictures 2018 Newport Jazz Festival
by Richard Conde
Published: August 16, 2018
Read "Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller" Interviews Kris Funn: Bass Player, Story Teller
by R.J. DeLuke
Published: November 27, 2018
Read "YstadSweden JazzFestival 2018" Live Reviews YstadSweden JazzFestival 2018
by Wolfgang Konig
Published: August 30, 2018