Art Blakey
(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
Krentz Ratings:
Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1955), 7.5/10
Nica's Dream (1956), 6/10
Hard Bop (1957), 5.5/10
Drum Suite (1957), 5.5/10
Ritual (1957), 6/10
Orgy in Rhythm (1957), 7.5/10
Cu-Bop (1957), 5.5/10
Moanin' (1958), 7.5/10
Drums Around the Corner (1958), 6/10
Les Liaisons Dangereuses (1959), 5/10
The Big Beat (1960), 7/10
Freedom Rider (1961), 5/10
Jazz Messengers (1961), 5/10
Mosaic (1961), 7/10
Buhaina's Delight (1961), 6.5/10
Three Blind Mice (1962), 5.5/10
Caravan (1962), 6/10
Ugetsu (1963), 7/10
A Jazz Message (1963), 5/10
Free for All (1964), 6/10
Indestructible (1964), 6/10
Album of the Year (1981), 5/10
Oh By the Way (1982), 5/10

The epitome of hard bop's hard pulse was drummer Art Blakey (1919), who already had impeccable credentials (Mary Lou Williams, Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstine from 1944 till 1947) when in 1954 he and pianist Horace Silver decided to form the Jazz Messengers, destined to become the premiere incubator of hard bop musicians. Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (february 1955) featured the quintet of Blakey on drums, Silver on piano, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor and Doug Watkins on bass, and contained seven Silver compositions: due to its popularity, the hard-driving, funky, gospel-y The Preacher was the piece that started the hard bop revolution.

Live At The Cafe Bohemia November 1955 documents the first live performances by the Jazz Messengers.

Nica's Dream (april 1956), with Donald Byrd replacing Dorham on trumpet, was highlighted by Silver's twelve-minute Nica's Dream. When Silver left, Blakey became the sole owner of the band and further increased the rhythmic intensity of his performances. By the time Hard Bop (february 1957) was recorded, all the other members had changed as well, with Jackie McLean joining on alto (and contributing the best piece, Little Melonae). Blakey's emphasis on rhythm increased dramatically through Drum Suite (february 1957), one of the earliest recordings that focused on drumming (two drummers and three percussionists performed on a couple of pieces), Ritual (february 1957), containing the ten-minute solo-drum piece Ritual, Orgy In Rhythm (march 1957), an African-sounding album (de facto a "world-music" album ante litteram) that featured several percussionists, Herbie Mann on African flutes, shamanic chanting and a program of captivating Blakey originals (Buhaina Chant, Toffi, Abdullah's Delight), and Cu-bop (may 1957), a Latin album featuring a congo player (as well as a new recruit, tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin).

Blakey's third quintet, with tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, pianist Bobby Timmons and trumpeter Lee Morgan, the stereotypical trumpet of hard bop, debuted on Moanin' (october 1958), with Timmons' nine-minute Moanin' (perhaps their most popular number) and Blakey's seven-minute The Drum Thunder Suite. Drums Around the Corner (november 1958) drowned trumpet and saxophone into percussions (drummers Philly Joe Jones and Roy Haynes, conga player Ray Barretto) for performances of Blakey's originals Blakey's Blues and Drums in the Rain. After scoring the film soundtrack Les Liaisons Dangereuses (july 1959), Blakey introduced his fourth trumpet-sax-piano-bass-drums quintet with The Big Beat (march 1960). The only change was in the tenor saxophone, but it was a change that dramatically altered the sound: Wayne Shorter not only introduced a different approach (slicker, less oriented towards rhythm'n'blues) but also provided compositions such as Cheese Players and Lester Left Town that better suited the dynamics of the quintet.

Just Coolin' (march 1959) documents a session by Art Blakey (drums), Hank Mobley (tenor sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano) and Jymie Merritt

First Flight To Tokyo (january 1961) documents a live performance of the Jazz Messengers with Wayne Shorter (sax), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano) and Jymie Merritt (bass).

After Freedom Rider (may 1961), Blakey changed the line-up one more time keeping Shorter and introducing trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Cedar Walton. Jazz Messengers (june 1961) was recorded by the same lineup one month after Freedom Rider.

Blakey's sextet for Mosaic (october 1961) and Buhaina's Delight (december 1961) now featured four formidable composers, who contributed Walton's Mosaic, Shorter's Children of the Night, Fuller's Arabia and Hubbard's Crisis to the former, and Walton's Shaky Jake, Fuller's Bu's Delight and Shorter's Reincarnation Blues to the latter. Three Blind Mice (march 1962) added Freddie Hubbard's Up Jumped Spring to the repertory. With Reggie Workman on bass they recorded Caravan (october 1962), highlighted by Shorter's This Is For Albert and Sweet 'N' Sour, Ugetsu (june 1963), containing Shorter's One by One, Ping-Pong and On the Ginza, as well as Walton's Ugetsu, and Free For All (february 1964), that included Shorter's memorable Free For All and Hubbard's The Core

A Jazz Message (july 1963) was a detour featuring Art Davis on bass, McCoy Tyner on piano, and Sonny Stitt on tenor and alto saxes.

Selections From Golden Boy (1963) documents a live performance of the Jazz Messengers playing music from the Broadway musical Golden Boy: Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone), Julius Watkins (French horn), Bill Barber (tuba), James Spaulding (alto sax), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Charles Davis (baritone sax), Cedar Walton (piano), Reggie Workman (bass), and the leader on drums.

Lee Morgan replaced Hubbard on Indestructible (may 1964), but real news was Fuller's promotion to main composer (The Egyptian and Sortie, both substantially more "modal" than the average of the group), although still balanced by the more traditional Walton (When Love Is New) and Shorter (Mr Jin, another gem) material. But it was the beginning of the instability that slowly marginalized the group, despite the torrential flow of recordings and the numerous talents that Blakey kept discovering, such as Wynton Marsalis on Album of the Year (april 1981) and Terence Blanchard on Oh By The Way (may 1982).

Blakey died in 1990.

(Translation by/ Tradotto da Luca Magnano)

La personificazione ritmica dell'hard bop fu il batterista Art Blakey (1919), che aveva già impeccabili credenziali in termini di collaborazioni (Mary Lou Williams, Fletcher Henderson, Billy Eckstine dal 1944 al 1947) quando nel 1954, insieme al pianista Horace Silver, decise di fondare i Jazz Messengers, destinati a diventare il primo incubatore di musicisti hard bop. Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (febbraio 1955) è suonato dal quintetto composto da Blakey alla batteria, Silver al piano, Kenny Dorham alla tromba, Hank Mobley al sax tenore e Doug Watkins al contrabbasso, e contiene sette composizioni di Silver: Per via della sua popolarità, il brano funky, ritmato e vagamente gospel, The Preacher, fu quello che avviò la rivoluzione dell'hard bop. Nica's Dream (aprile 1956), con Donald Byrd al posto di Dorham alla tromba, è messo in risalto dal brano di Silver Nica's Dream, di dodici minuti. Quando Silver abbandonò la formazione, Blakey ne divenne l'unico leader e aumentò ulteriormente l'intensità ritmica delle sue performance. Quando fu registrato Hard Bop (febbraio 1957) la formazione era cambiata del tutto, con l'arrivo di Jackie McLean al sax alto (e a McLean si deve anche il brano migliore del disco, Little Melonae). L'enfasi di Blakey sul ritmo crebbe drammaticamente in Drum Suite (febbraio 1957), uno dei primi dischi a concentrarsi sulla batteria (alcuni brani sono suonati solamente da due batteristi e tre percussionisti), in Ritual (febbraio 1957), che contiene il brano per sola batteria Ritual, di dieci minuti, in Orgy In Rhythm (marzo 1957), un album dai suoni che richiamano l'Africa (di fatto un disco di "world-music" ante litteram), in cui suonano diversi percussionisti, Herbie Mann a flauti africani e canti sciamanici, e in cui si ascoltano una serie di accattivanti brani scritti da Blakey (Buhaina Chant, Toffi, Abdullah's Delight), e in Cu-bop (maggio 1957), un disco latin a cui partecipa un suonatore di congas (e una nuova recluta, il sassofonista tenore Johnny Griffin). Il terzo quintetto di Blakey, con Benny Golson al sax tenore, Bobby Timmons al piano e Lee Morgan, trombettista stereotipico dell'hard bop, debuttò con Moanin' (ottobre 1958), con la title-track di nove minuti, opera di Timmons (probabilmente il brano più celebre del quintetto) e il brano di Blakey The Drum Thunder Suite, di sette minuti. Drums Around the Corner (novembre 1958) vedeva tromba e sax sommersi dalle percussioni (Philly Joe Jones e Roy Haynes alla batteria, Ray Barretto alle congas) nelle performance dei brani di Blakey Blakey's Blues e Drums in the Rain. Dopo aver scritto la colonna sonora Les Liaisons Dangereuses (luglio 1959), Blakey creò il suo quarto quintetto con tromba, sax, piano, contrabbasso e batteria, per il disco The Big Beat (marzo 1960). L'unico cambio di formazione riguardò il sax tenore, ma fu drastico: Wayne Shorter non si limitò a introdurre un approccio diverso (più agile e meno orientato al rhythm'n'blues) ma contribuì al disco con sue composizioni come Cheese Players e Lester Left Town, che si adattavano meglio alle dinamiche del quintetto.

Dopo Freedom Rider (maggio 1961), Blakey cambiò nuovamente formazione, mantenendo Shorter e aggiungendo Freddie Hubbard alla tromba, Curtis Fuller al trombone e Cedar Walton al piano. Jazz Messengers (giugno 1961) fu inciso dalla stessa formazione un mese dopo Freedom Rider.

Il sestetto di Blakey in Mosaic (ottobre 1961) e Buhaina's Delight (dicembre 1961) includeva ora eccezionali compositori, i cui contributi sono Mosaic di Walton, Children of the Night di Shorter, Arabia di Fuller e Crisis di Hubbard nel primo dei due dischi, e Shaky Jake di Walton, Bu's Delight di Fuller e Reincarnation Blues di Shorter nel secondo. Three Blind Mice (marzo 1962) aggiunge al repertorio Up Jumped Spring di Feddie Hubbard. Con Reggie Workman al contrabbasso registrarono Caravan (ottobre 1962), messo in risalto dai brani di Shorter This Is For Albert e Sweet 'N' Sour, Ugetsu (giugno 1963), con i pezzi di Shorter One by One, Ping-Pong e On the Ginza, come anche Ugetsu di Walton, e Free For All (febbraio 1964), che include la memorabile Free For All di Shorter e The Core di Hubbard.

A Jazz Message (luglio 1963) fu una deviazione di percorso con Art Davis al contrabbasso, McCoy Tyner al piano, e Sonny Stitt a sax contralto e sax tenore.

Lee Morgan sostituì Hubbard in Indestructible (maggio 1964), ma la vera novità fu la promozione di Fuller a principale compositore del gruppo (The Egyptian e Sortie, entrambe essenzialmente più modali rispetto alla media del gruppo), seppure ancora bilanciato dal materiale, più tradizionale, di Walton (When Love Is New) e di Shorter (Mr Jin, un'altra gemma). Ma si trattava dell'inizio di una instabilità che presto rese marginale la produzione del gruppo, nonostante il flusso torrenziale di dischi realizzati e i numerosi talenti che Blakey continuava a scoprire, come Wynton Marsalis in Album of the Year (aprile 1981) e Terence Blanchard in Oh By The Way (maggio 1982).

(Copyright © 2006 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )
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