Make a difference: Support jazz online

Support All About Jazz Your friends at All About Jazz are looking for readers to help back our website upgrade project. Of critical importance, this project will result in a vastly improved design across all devices and will make future All About Jazz projects much easier to implement. Click here to learn more about this project including donation rewards.

442

Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers

By

Sign in to view read count
Rare and Rewarding

This concert date by Blakey, filmed during the summer of 1976 in Umbria, Italy, is visually stunning. The setting is a make-shift stage in the street, nestled among stucco houses in a space so confined as to suggest an intimate night club. The crowd is attentive and receptive, though not especially enthusiastic. Some listeners are simply peering out from open casa windows. Sartorially, this edition of the Messengers fits in particularly well. They look less like jazz musicians than a band of gypsies or street performers— dressed as much for slumming as concertizing (what a contrast to the formal Marsalises, who in 5 years would be putting in their time with Blakey).

More importantly, the TDK crew manages to put the viewer right in the center of the ensemble, a privileged position compared to any in attendance that day. The shots are sharp and revealing, the cutting is judicious and completely in synch with the music, camera placement is varied, providing long shots as well as close-ups but never losing primary focus on the music. The audio engineering isn't up to this level, as the ensemble balance occasionally suffers, and the toning down of Blakey's usually dominant percussion seems overdone. Fortunately, the soloists are captured with sterling sonic clarity.

Apart from the quality of the production, a primary reason to own this disc is the personnel, largely overlooked and unheralded—but not forgotten by some of us. The veteran Bill Hardman may be the one trumpet player in Blakey's groups (which included Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis) who rivals another former Messenger star, Clifford Brown. Yet it's becoming ever harder to locate recordings by him. Same with the diminutive but high-powered Dave Schnitter, none of whose four LP's has ever been issued on CD. Notwithstanding some sloppy execution on a few especially knotty ensemble passages, the bigness of his sound and daring, passionate fire of his playing are simply unmatched by any other Blakey tenor player, from Mobley and Golson to Shorter and Branford Marsalis. He showed up out of the blue, traveled with Blakey for five years, then suddenly and mysteriously evaporated.

The same fate appears to have happened to the brilliant musical creations of Walter Davis, Jr., represented on this program by three strikingly original pieces that combine challenging rhythms and harmonies with operatic, aria-like melodies. Sadly, there are no other recordings, to my knowledge, of the Messengers with this frontline, let alone with masterpieces like "Backgammon," "Uranus," and "Gypsy Folk Tales." No doubt this one, too, will soon fall by the wayside. I'm just happy to have picked up a copy.

Track Listing: 1. Backgammon, 2. Along Came Betty, 3. Uranus, 4. Blues March, 5. All The Things You Are and 6. Gypsy Folk Tales.

Personnel: Art Blakey, drums; Dave Schnitter, ts; Bill Hardman, trpt; Mickey Tucker, piano; Cameron Brown, bass.

Encoding: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only.)
Format: Color, Dolby
Rated: NR
Studio: Naxos of America
DVD Release Date: November 19, 2002

Tags

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By Robert Mugge DVD/Film Reviews Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By...
by Doug Collette
Published: January 5, 2018
Read La La Land DVD/Film Reviews La La Land
by Gareth Thomas
Published: October 17, 2017
Read Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl DVD/Film Reviews Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2017
Read Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the Fonda Theatre 2015 DVD/Film Reviews Rolling Stones From The Vault: Sticky Fingers Live at the...
by Doug Collette
Published: September 30, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Portrait Of An Album | Sinatra Sings
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First 40 Years DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: Live From Caesar’s Palace | The First...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By Robert Mugge" DVD/Film Reviews Saxophone Colossus Featuring Sonny Rollins: A Film By...
by Doug Collette
Published: January 5, 2018
Read "Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At Carnegie Hall" DVD/Film Reviews Frank Sinatra: The Royal Festival Hall (1962) | Live At...
by Chris M. Slawecki
Published: September 27, 2017
Read "Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl" DVD/Film Reviews Jeff Beck: Live at the Hollywood Bowl
by Doug Collette
Published: October 7, 2017
Read "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary" DVD/Film Reviews Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: July 4, 2017