Holiday for Skins is not totally unique in drummer Art Blakey's output, as the drummer was most famous for some of the greatest hard bop era records ever made with his Jazz Messengers. Though not a Jazz Messengers recording, this original double volume definitely has Blakey's strong personal, percussive stamp. The cover states this is "a message from Blakey and that message is mostly about rhythm and the vast expressive possibilities of the drum sets, congas, bongos, timbales and other percussion instruments.
The opening track, "Feast, starts with a single conga drum slowly sounding single notes with a vocal call (by which musician, though, who knows?). The single voice receives a response from a chorus of men (including Philly Joe Jones and the leader himself) before launching into an Afro/Cuban groove over which trumpeter Donald Byrd sails eloquent melodic statements. Ray Bryant's piano solo follows and it is both burning and rock solid with the groove. About four-and-a-half minutes into "Feast Blakey starts one of his great solos that, though loud and explosive, is clearly in dialogue with the drum choir. The track comes full circle to the slowly beating solo conga drum and vocal call and response. However, what is the meaning of the chants? Are they traditional? Original? Are these Blakey's arrangements? Which conga player is soloing in what tune? The liner notes offer a nice glimpse into Blakey's personality, but leave a lot of basic, musically appropriate questions unanswered.
On "Mirage, a very cool tune by Blakey, we get to hear Philly Joe step into the spotlight on drum set. It begins with a bongo obbligato soon giving way to a Bryant vamp that tells you this tune is going to burn. Byrd plays the simple theme and then launches into a skillful solo that provides some of this project's most exciting moments. "Reflection, a Bryant originalwhich, coincidentally also makes an appearance on another great percussionist's recording, We Three (OJC, 1958), by Roy Haynesappropriately closes the CD.
Track Listing: The Feast; Aghano; Lament Africano; Mirage; O
Personnel: Art Blakey: drums; Philly Joe Jones: drums, tympani; Art Taylor: drums, gong; Sabu Martinez: bongos, congas; Ray Barretto, Chonguito Vicente: congas; Victor Gonzalez: bongos; Andy Delannoy: maracas, cencerro; Julio Martinez: congas, tree log; Fred Pagan Jr: timbales; Donald Byrd: trumpet; Ray Bryant: piano; Wendell Marshall: bass; Blakey, Jones, Martinez, Austin Cromer, Hal Rasheed: chants.