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Old May 22, 2008, 04:02 PM
Gavin Walker Gavin Walker is offline
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Join Date: May 2007
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Jazz Feature for May 26: Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers in Paris (1958).

Art Blakey (born in Pittsburg on Oct. 11,1919 and died in New York on Oct. 16,1990), master drummer and leader of The Jazz Messengers needs no introduction to Jazz fans and musicians. There were so many editions of the Jazz Messengers and so many musicians of immense importance who passed through the ranks of the band that it virtually covers an important (some would argue THE most important) part of Jazz history. Blakey, even in lean times, never bowed to pressure to incorporate electronics or dabble in 'fusion' or other commercial diversions but kept his organization on a pure Jazz course and managed to get most of the various incarnations of The Messengers into recording studios over so many years. Blakey was the ultimate Jazz Messenger and never failed to tell the world how it was America's original art form. He would tell people that you can find black people all over the world but only in America did black people produce Jazz. He believed that Jazz was a unique American music that was an integration of European disciplines and instruments with black field hollars,the blues and African rhythms. It would be interesting to know where Blakey would stand today on the current scene with so many Europeans mixing their folk and indigenous music with Jazz and producing some highly original music. That is another story, however.

Tonight's edition of The Jazz Messengers only recorded one domestically produced album and that is the famous "Moanin'" recording on Blue Note (4-95324-2)
with Lee Morgan, Benny Golson(the musical director), Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt and Blakey. This album is often listed as one of the essential 100 Jazz recordings that you should own. Other recordings by this edition are from Europe and are harder to find but nonetheless excellent. After recording the Moanin' album in Oct. 1958, Blakey embarked on his first tour of Europe and blew everyone away. Tonight's Feature was recorded in Paris on December 21, 1958 at the legendary Club St. Germain and it's a knockout!

Blakey, after initial critical recognition with the Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham(later Donald Byrd) edition of the Jazz Messengers, a co-operative band, which broke up in 1956, Blakey took the name and rebuilt the band from the drums up. Jackie McLean, Bill Hardman, Johnny Griffin and others were in that group and the critical recognition fell way down.....Blakey recorded a lot in 1957 but the recordings were given a very lukewarm reception and his critical star was falling. It's sad that the critics and writers couldn't get past the rough edges of the band and hear the creativity and spirit but that's another story. In early 1958 because of various factors, Blakey's Messengers were not working that much and Art was putting together 'pick-up' editions of the band and playing jam session tunes. Enter Benny Golson, who Blakey hired to replace a drugged out tenor player in the fall of 1958. Blakey asked Golson his advice on what to do with the band and Golson said "fire everyone and start over". Blakey gave Golson carte-blanche and Benny brought in Lee Morgan, who had just left Dizzy's big band and whom Blakey wanted anyway. Pianist, Bobby Timmons was next as was bassist Jymie Merritt, all from Philadelphia like Golson. Benny and Bobby wrote new tunes for the band and the rest is history. Blakey's star was once again on the rise.

Tonight's Feature is the band having a ball in front of an enthusiastic and spirited audience at the Paris hot spot. Ex-pat pianist/vocalist and beauty, Hazel Scott had just moved to Paris after her divorce from Congressman Adam Clayton Powell (one of the early African-American politicians) and brought a whole entourage to the Club St. Germain to cheer on Blakey and his band. Everybody is in top form and it's a rare chance to hear what this band can do before an responsive audience. These recordings were first released on French RCA and are not easy to find today. That's the Feature at 11pm. The show begins at 9pm and I hope you can join me.
Gavin Walker's The Jazz Show is heard Mondays 9PM to midnight on CITR 101.9 FM and online.
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