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Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Return

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Together, these three titles documenting four dates, each featuring a different configuration of the Jazz Messengers, clearly demonstrate Art Blakey's ability to instigate his young charges' creativity while maintaining an identifiable group sound that remained open to change.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Free for All
Blue Note
2004 (1964)

The earliest session, Free For All , features what was arguably the most creative edition of the Messengers on its next to last recording. The band of Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton and Reggie Workman recorded album after album of consistently great music but Free For All stands out amongst them for its incredibly high energy level. Comprised of four lengthy performances designed to highlight Blakey's indominatable force and indefatigable vigor, it succeeds on a plane that few studio sessions achieve. Shorter's opening title track is almost frightening for the incredible strength displayed by the soloists under the fire of Blakey's relentless battery of breathtaking rhythms. "Hammerhead," another Shorter composition, is an invigorating outing, but a bit less intimidating for its more conventional melodic line and Blakey's swinging medium tempo shuffle. Hubbard's "The Core" has a sense of urgency that again inspires ecstatic expressions from the four soloists propelled by Workman's robust beat and Blakey's persistent polyrhythmic prodding. Hubbard's relaxed arrangement of Clare Fischer's beautiful bossa "Pensativa," a refreshing breather following a marathon of muscular music, concludes the date.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
S'Make It
Verve
2004 (1965)

'S Make It , recorded a few months following the demise of the Indestructible band, with only Fuller remaining, undoubtedly surprised the many listeners who surmised that the presence of John Gilmore (on a rare sabbatical from the Sun Ra Arkestra) signaled a continuation of the almost avant garde direction in which the Messengers seemed to be headed with Shorter. Instead, the date marks the band's return to a more soulful sound heralded by the return of Lee Morgan to the ranks. Blakey is understandably much more restrained in his playing, leading a new band through what was probably a brand new repertoire, but all in all this is still a very satisfying session. The opener, "Faith," is a simple gospel tinged melody probably chosen as a potential jukebox hit. Morgan's title track, a swinging blues, reveals him at the height of his trumpeting power and has Gilmore delivering some of the bluesiest Gene Ammons-inspired tenor of his career. John Hicks proves himself a valuable addition to the Messengers, contributing two distinctive originals, "Waltz For Ruth" and "Olympia." Fuller's "Little Hughie" is an infectious Latin-tinged boogaloo line. Two other Morgan melodies, the cakewalking "One For Gamal" and the more modern "Lament For Stacy" fill out the date.

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Blakey's Beat
Concord Records
2004 (1978/81)

Blakey's Beat includes two discs recorded at the Keystone Korner. The earlier (1978) date, In This Korner , features one of the finest undersung Messenger bands with Valery Ponomarev, David Schnitter, Bobby Watson, James Williams and Dennis Irwin. Watson and Williams were two of the best composers to ever write for the group and the former's "Pamela" and the latter's "Unlimited," "In This Korner," and "1977" were worthy additions to the band's impressive book, as was Ponomarev's swinging "Blues For Two." A way up tempo arrangement of "The Song Is You" and bright interpretation of George Cables' "Dark Side, Light Side" fill out this exciting date that is marked by a rejuvenated Blakey's fiery modern drumming. The 1981 session, Straight Ahead , showcases the Messenger unit fronted by the wunderkind Wynton Marsalis with Watson and Williams remaining and Billy Pierce and Charles Fambrough replacing Schnitter and Irwin. Watson's "E.T.A." is the most enjoyable selection of date, its only original, but there is some excellent soloing on the hip arrangements of Bud Powell's "Webb City" and the standards "Falling In Love With Love," "My Romance," and "How Deep Is The Ocean". Blakey's high-spirited drumming makes the music always interesting and the sound of this master's voice proudly introducing the young musicians on "The Theme" is an uplifting reminder of the man who powered one of the greatest bands in jazz history.


Free For All

Tracks: 1. Free for All (11:04); 2. Hammer Head (7:47); 3. The Core (9:24); 4. Pensativa (8:19).
Personnel: Art Blakey: Drums; Curtis Fuller: Trombone; Freddie Hubbard: Trumpet; Wayne Shorter: Tenor Saxophone; Cedar Walton: Organ, Piano; Reggie Workman: Bass.

'S Make It

Tracks: 1. Faith (3:46); 2. 'S Make It (5:40); 3. Waltz for Ruth (5:46); 4. One for Gamal (3:41); 5. Little Hughie (5:35); 6. Olympia (5:49); 7. Lament for Stacy (5:12).
Personnel: Art Blakey: Drums; Curtis Fuller: Trombone; John Gilmore: Tenor Sax; John Hicks: Piano; Lee Morgan: Trumpet; Victor Sproles: Bass.

Blakey's Beat

Tracks: 1. Art Blakey Intro (1:25); 2. Pamela (9:41); 3. Unlimited (6:39); 4. In This Korner (7:56); 5. The Song Is You (7:36); 6. Dark Side, Light Side (10:19); 7. 1978 (1977 A.D.) (10:35); 8. Blues for Two (7:45); 9. Falling in Love With Love (7:53); 10. My Romance (3:42); 11. Webb City (10:00); 12. How Deep Is the Ocean? (9:45); 13. E.T.A. (6:10); 14. The Theme (3:07).

Personnel: Art Blakey: Drums; Charles Fambrough: Bass; Dennis Irwin: Bass; Wynton Marsalis: Trumpet; Bill Pierce: Tenor Sax; Valery Ponomarev: Trumpet; David Schnitter: Tenor Sax; James Williams: Piano.

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