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Old Oct 8, 2010, 02:43 AM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Join Date: May 2007
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Jazz Feature for Oct.11:"Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk".

"Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk" accurately describes tonight's Jazz Feature. Because of the closeness of their Birthdays (Blakey Oct.11, 1919 and Monk Oct. 10,1917) and the fact that they were best friends and frequent musical collaborators, this legendary recording done on May 14 & 15, 1957 during the evening and stretching into the next day with Blakey's band and Monk at the piano for Atlantic Records is an important document and a musical adventure for the musicians and you, the listener. Blakey's Messengers at this time had Bill Hardman on trumpet and Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone and of course, Art Blakey on the drums. Griffin had once worked with Monk in Chicago before Johnny had moved to New York and Monk liked him. Griffin was at least familiar with some of Monk's music. Monk's tunes were going to be the bulk of this date. Monk at the time had just emerged from the Jazz underground and had his New York Cabaret Card restored which allowed him to work in clubs. It had been taken away from him due to some trumped-up drug charges years earlier and without the Card, Monk could not work in an establishment that served alcohol. Monk was now emerging as an important name, was working steady and had his own group. Monk had only two demands for this date: one, was that the band play mostly his tunes and two, that Blakey use Monk's favourite bassist (who was in Monk's working quartet) Wilbur Ware. Very late in the afternoon on May 14 the musicians arrived at the Atlantic recording studios. They all arrived within minutes of each other but had to wait for Wilbur Ware. After some floor pacing and phone calls that went nowhere.....Ware arrives....absolutely blind drunk! Ware's cab driver had to carry Ware's bass up a flight of stairs. Ware was both a heroin addict and a drunk...not a great combination although many times he could function very well stoned and drunk and play brilliantly. Thanks to my friend Nou Dadoun, over an hour and a half of previously unreleased outakes from this session have been compiled. Some of these takes are very good and some, of course show just how difficult it was for players, even ones of this calibre to play Monk's music. The first tune tackled on the date was a very slow version of "Blue Monk" with a few new variations in the melody (not easy to play). Ware was trying to function and plays reasonably well considering his condition. A few false starts and breakdowns happened but two pretty good takes of Blue Monk were made with Ware on bass. While they were discussing the next take of the tune, Ware sat on the floor then curled up and fell asleep!!! Attempts to wake him were futile and Blakey phoned his regular bassist to get his instrument and come to the studio. Monk wasn't happy. After a time Blakey's bassist arrived and James "Spanky" DeBrest took over the bass chores. They had Spanky's cabbie wait and they were able to wake Ware up and the cab driver took Wilbur and has bass home. The band tried another take of Blue Monk and it went well with the new bassist. Thelonious was pleased with the young man's time and sound so Spanky DeBrest finished the date. After many takes of Blue Monk they found one that was satisfactory and that is the one heard on the official recording. Next they tackled Monk's "Evidence" and had a hell of a time with that tune as Monk wanted to play a rather abstract intro. A few good takes were made but they went on to another tune called "I Mean You" before returning to Evidence with a drum intro by Blakey instead of Monk's strange intro and this worked better. All of this took all night and into the early morning and after a pause and some breakfast for the band. they completed the album with Monk's "In Walked Bud", "Rhythm-a-ning" (sic) and Johnny Griffin's minor key blues, "Purple Shades" (aka "63rd Street Theme"). Most of the information above was gleaned from a long conversation I had in the early 80's with Johnny Griffin in Seattle over dinner and drinks (many). I miss Griff to this day.

The Feature will contain two unreleased takes of "Blue Monk" one with Wilbur Ware and one with Spanky DeBest. Two takes of "Evidence" with the strange Monk intro and one with the later drum intro, both unreleased. One unreleased take of "I Mean You" will be heard. The rest are as found on the original Lp and CD..."In Walked Bud", "Rhythm-a-ning" (sic) and "Purple Shades". Those of you that have this classic collaboration with have fun listening to the unreleased takes and those who have never heard the date at all will experience a wonderful example of pure Jazz creativity from two masters.......Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk and company. Happy Birthdays to Thelonious and Art!

The Blakey with Monk Feature will be heard on the dot at 10:45pm as it is a long set with the extra takes. Tune in at 9pm right from the start as I can assure you there will be no turkeys on tonight's show. See you then.................
Gavin Walker's The Jazz Show is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online.
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