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In the fall of 1956, Blakey introduced a new edition of the Jazz Messengers with Jackie McLean (alto), Bill Hardman (trumpet), Sam Dockery (piano) and Spanky DeBrest(bass). Over the next 25 years Blakey's bands would go through many personnel changes (sometimes it seems as if everyone in jazz has worked with Art) but the hard bop sound of this prototypical unit became the model for all of Art's aggregations. Originally released on the Savoy label, Midnight Session is another in a series of Savoy reissues by Denon Records. Through the use of a unique 20-bit mastering process Denon has managed to capture and enhance the sound of one of jazz's most vibrant eras. Blakey and his "boys" swing through a six song set of bop that, while containing no jazz "classics," gives the listener a nice taste of the genre. Art's forceful drumming often brought out the best in his sidemen and in this case Hardman and McLean respond with youthful vigor. He may have lead "stronger" lineups in the future but this is still high art from Blakey!
Years ago now--in Rhodesia--listening to Voice of America with Willis Conover I heard Bunk Johnson play When The Saints Go Marching In, and Billie Holiday sing Don't Explain. I knew then there was no other life for me than jazz.