Five former members of The Jazz Messengers plus drummer Lewis Nash make up this Art Blakey Legacy Band that has toured the U.S. recently and paid homage to the legendary teacher and leader. Tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, trombonist Curtis Fuller, pianist Geoff Keezer, bassist Peter Washington and drummer Nash perform compositions written by Messengers for that unit: Wayne Shorter wrote "One by One," Fuller wrote "A La Mode," Blanchard wrote "Oh, By the Way," Cedar Walton wrote "Plexus," and Golson wrote "Whisper Not" and "Blues March." Other Blakey alumni, including Brian Lynch and George Cables, have substituted on several of the tour dates. Coincidentally, 69-year-old Benny Golson, who leads the Legacy Band, represents the older generation of Blakey alumni, while 27-year-old Geoff Keezer represents the younger members.
Recorded less than a year ago, this session finds each artist in fine form. Blanchard's trumpet voice is more forceful and robust than in past years. Golson and Fuller show their experienced wares, as does young lion Keezer. Washington and Nash drive the ensemble with appropriate charm. The standard bop approach of passing solos from one performer to the next applies here; however, the Blakey form also stands, as the horns work as a unit to express these familiar melodies. Keezer and Blanchard stand out exceptionally well with dramatic solo work on "Whisper Not." Washington and Nash drive the ensemble; the bassist has several welcome solo passages. Lewis Nash propels "Plexus" with an exceptional focus, even adding several trademark Art Blakey snare drum figures. The live recording setup seems to have muffled Curtis Fuller's trombone voice throughout; however, the audience reaction and the artists' overt enthusiasm shine through loud and clear.