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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings

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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings
Perhaps Art Blakey's greatest gift was that he was able to—and also enabled you—to transport through time to when invention was new and not reheated, rebranded, or far worse, rejected out of hand. Just take his opening solo on the Charlie Parker-penned opener "Now's the Time" from the absolutely ribald and raucous First Flight To Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings and get a riotous earful for yourself. Blakey bops, pops, and booms and you're there in the room in Tokyo, marveling as the man does his, and only his, sweet-ass thing.

You don't want him to stop really. But you know that if he doesn't, you don't get to hear Bobby Timmons tip in on the eighty-eights, Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter briskly blow in the theme and Jymie Merritt go intuitively toe-to-toe with Blakey without blowing up the room and letting the weather in. Then the whole chills into that one-of-its-kind Blakey swing thing and baby we're off to the races.

Recorded at Tokyo's Hibiya Public Hall on January 14, 1961, First Flight To Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings sports what was for the quintet at the time, a tried ("Dat Dere") and true ("Round About Midnight") setlist that could, if the players were anyone but who they were, breed routine. But lethargy and lassitude weren't allowed on a Blakey stage, no matter what town or time zone it was in. So he intros Timmons' sly sliding standard "Moanin'" and try, just try, not to picture yourself ordering another round downtown somewhere as Morgan and Shorter call and respond to Timmons' soulful jabs with Blakey and Merritt holding it down all city blue and sassy. Benny Golson's emphatic "Blues March" follows and if you want to score First Flight To Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings as a live greatest hits collection you go right ahead and do so. But just remember these guys gave their all, gig after gig, greatest hit or no greatest hit, and that's a rare freaking code to live by in these questionable and suspect days.

Co-produced by Zev Feldman and David Weiss,  First Flight To Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings will be released on November 5th, 2021, both as 2-LP vinyl and 2-CD deluxe editions, with all the bells and whistles (rare photos, essays, a new interview with Shorter) that we've become accustomed to and are grateful for.

Track Listing

Now's The Time; Moanin', Blues March; The Theme; Dat Dere; Round About Midnight; Now's The Time (Version 2); Night In Tunisia; The Theme (Version 2).

Personnel

Art Blakey: drums; Wayne Shorter: saxophone; Lee Morgan: trumpet; Bobby Timmons: piano; Jymie Merritt: bass.

Album information

Title: First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings | Year Released: 2021 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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