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Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

In the '60s, when John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman were defining the concept of a jazz avant-garde, few knowledgeable observers would have guessed that in another 30 years the music's mainstream would virtually bypass their innovations, in favor of the hard bop style that free jazz had apparently supplanted. As it turned out, many listeners who had come to love jazz as a sophisticated manifestation of popular music were unable to accept the extreme esotericism of the avant-garde; their tastes were rooted in the core elements of "swing" and "blues," characteristics found in abundance in the music of the Jazz Messengers, the quintessential hard bop ensemble led by drummer Art Blakey. In the '60s, '70s, and '80s, when artists on the cutting edge were attempting to transform the music, Blakey continued to play in more or less the same bag he had since the '40s, when his cohorts included the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Fats Navarro. By the '80s, the evolving mainstream consensus had reached a point of overwhelming approval in regard to hard bop: this is what jazz is, and Art Blakey -- as its longest-lived and most eloquent exponent -- was its master.

The Jazz Messengers had always been an incubator for young talent. A list of the band's alumni is a who's who of straight-ahead jazz from the '50s on -- Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Griffin, Jackie McLean, Donald Byrd, Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton, Benny Golson, Joanne Brackeen, Billy Harper, Valery Ponomarev, Bill Pierce, Branford Marsalis, James Williams, Keith Jarrett, and Chuck Mangione, to name several of the most well-known. In the '80s, precocious graduates of Blakey's School for Swing would continue to number among jazz's movers and shakers, foremost among them being trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Marsalis became the most visible symbol of the '80s jazz mainstream; through him, Blakey's conservative ideals came to dominate the public's perception of the music. At the time of his death in 1990, the Messenger aesthetic dominated jazz, and Blakey himself had arguably become the most influential jazz musician of the past 20 years.

Blakey's first musical education came in the form of piano lessons; he was playing professionally as a seventh grader, leading his own commercial band. He switched to drums shortly thereafter, learning to play in the hard-swinging style of Chick Webb and Sid Catlett. In 1942, he played with pianist Mary Lou Williams in New York. He toured the South with Fletcher Henderson's band in 1943-1944. From there, he briefly led a Boston-based big band before joining Billy Eckstine's new group, with which he would remain from 1944-1947. Eckstine's big band was the famous "cradle of modern jazz," and included (at different times) such major figures of the forthcoming bebop revolution as Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Charlie Parker. When Eckstine's group disbanded, Blakey started a rehearsal ensemble called the Seventeen Messengers. He also recorded with an octet, the first of his bands to be called the Jazz Messengers. In the early '50s, Blakey began an association with Horace Silver, a particularly likeminded pianist with whom he recorded several times. In 1955, they formed a group with Hank Mobley and Kenny Dorham, calling themselves "Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers." The Messengers typified the growing hard bop movement -- hard, funky, and bluesy, the band emphasized the music's primal rhythmic and harmonic essence. A year later, Silver left the band, and Blakey became its leader. From that point, the Messengers were Blakey's primary vehicle, though he would continue to freelance in various contexts. Notable was A Jazz Message, a 1963 Impulse record date with McCoy Tyner, Sonny Stitt, and Art Davis; a 1971-1972 world tour with "the Giants of Jazz," an all-star venture with Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Sonny Stitt, and Al McKibbon; and an epochal drum battle with Max Roach, Elvin Jones, and Buddy Rich at the 1964 Newport Jazz Festival. Blakey also frequently recorded as a sideman under the leadership of ex-Messengers.

Blakey's influence as a bandleader could not have been nearly so great had he not been such a skilled instrumentalist. No drummer ever drove a band harder; none could generate more sheer momentum in the course of a tune; and probably no drummer had a lower boiling point -- Blakey started every performance full-bore and went from there. His accompaniment style was relentless, and woe to the young saxophonist who couldn't keep up, for Blakey would run him over like a fullback. Blakey differed from other bop drummers in that his style was almost wholly about the music's physical attributes. Where his contemporary Max Roach dealt extensively with the drummer's relationship to melody and timbre, for example, Blakey showed little interest in such matters. To him, jazz percussion wasn't about tone color; it was about rhythm -- first, last, and in between. Blakey's drum set was the engine that propelled the music. To the extent that he exhibited little conceptual development over the course of his long career, either as a player or as a bandleader, Blakey was limited. He was no visionary by any means. But Blakey did one thing exceedingly well, and he did it with genius, spirit, and generosity until the very end of his life. ~ Chris Kelsey, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: Live At Slug's, NYC

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Track List: Live At Sweet Basil

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Track List: Free For All

Comments

rbgrandaddy1
Only one thing to say sweet
dave5962
Thank you, thank you, thank you for telling it like it is!

The jazz avant-garde epitomized by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman was one of those ego-trips run on the world by those determined to replace the gut-level roots of any art form with intellectual i z e d nonsense. Alain Robbe Grillet's boring avant-garde in French literature and the cerebralized machinations of deconstructi o n i s m and etc. always disappear because they have divorced themselves from the heart of what it means to be human.
Art Blakey is a beast. He absolutely destroys the kit while still maintaining the finesse that makes jazz so beautiful. One of my favorite drummers ever.
The only way art blakey
Very much enjoy Mr. Blakey and his Messengers, always have!
I used to work with Art B's grandson here in NYC. What a wonderful man he was too and so was his lovely wife! He brought out family photos of his life growing up in Harlem with his grand-father and his mom who was Art's daughter. Art just had so much feeling when he played, and his music puts me in a good mood. I just love jazz and Art was one of the best!
Those are the best advocates of Hard Bop. Their style is deeply connected to the preachers and the the roots of Afro American music. This is great music.
dave5962
The jazz avant-garde epitomized by John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman was one of those ego-trips run on the world by those determined to replace the gut-level roots of any art form with intellectual i z e d nonsense. Alain Robbe Grillet's boring avant-garde in French literature and the cerebralized machinations of deconstructi o n i s m and etc. always disappear because they have divorced themselves from the heart of what it means to be human.
awesome ..I was in France back in the 60's and I remember seeing Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers at a venue in Paris the Olympia club..wow. He even did sound track for a French movie Lift Up The Scalpow or something like this. great memories
rogerblocke
Art Blakey played groove jazz and skipped the jazz of the day. Hats off to him ...
After listening to Art and The Jazz Messengers, I feel a lot happier, can't explain.
His name was "Clifford Brown" the young musicians
Young trumpet artist died in a car accident and his nickname was Brownie, early twenties was a great loss what was his first name????
Love this jam "Moanin" just beautiful sound of pure jazz, they are so talented. Peace
jackmassey
BILLY HARPER KILLIN IT ON ANGEL EYES!!!! Personnel: Art Blakey: drums; Ronnie Mathews: piano; Lawrence EVans: bass; Bill Hardman: trumpet; Julian Priester: trombone; Billy Harper: tenor saxophone.
I feel it,NOTHING BUT LOVE!
The messengers of jazz their name speaks for itself as for Art Blakely what cant be said? He was the smoothest! Great! !"!"
Art Blakey (Bu) was just as iconic musician as Satchmo, Trane, Miles or anyone else that ever Swung on the bandstand not only for his explosive drumming and percussion work but, also the way his Messengers was the finishing school for soo many great musicians. His impact on modern music and the respect he received after his death only grow and resonate on a deeper level as time passes
I wish I was alive in the 60s, or at least the 80s, so I could've listened to all this beauty live. URGH. Best damn rhythms that can't be replicated by music groups today~
sweinste2
I first heard this tune on my Walkman radio bicycling to work down Minnesota Ave. in DC... and I remember saying to myself What the hell is this killer song? You know that The Messengers were not f**ing around, and old Art was daring anyone to match his groove.
I have seen Art Blakey well over 100 times. Back in the day I went to the Lighthouse Cafe in Hermosa Beach, Ca. every night he was there and many other clubs in Los Angeles. Allways sat right next to his drums. One night at a club called Marty's on the Hill, Blakey acutually came over to my table during a break and said to meWhat's your name? I see you all the time? Wow I was in heaven!!! I bought him a drink and we talked jazz till his next set.
First heard Blakey when I was 15 and wow went out and bought Indistructab l e on the spot. Wore it out bought another one.I love Art Blakey.
melloman70
A fierce drummer who shined but not outplayed the rest of his group. Fantastic rhythems and beats.
Art Blakely was the essence of bop based, blues oriented, 60's jazz. One hundred yearsfrom now musicologist s will still proclaim him as the best of its genre.
a old school buck
I JUST WANT TO GET UP AND DANCE....FAN T A S T I C BEAT....MAKE S U WANT TO SLAP YOUR MOMMA (u know I can't do that)
merrysea5
Who's the tenor on this date?
Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers are one of my all time favorite jazz groups. They hit the pocket and stayed there, never relinquishin g or showed waiver from that committed pocket. Love them!
Get rid of all these chick date ads man. Give me a f**kin break on the ad s**t.
jwoodland887
The Blue Note Records label produced some of the greatest jazz of our time. Art Blakey formed some great bands and provided the foundation for younger artist's to develop and hone their skills. I have come to believe that anything on Blue Note is a collectors item.
Lee Morgan available?
Art is my favorite Jazz drummer ever since I heard him on Free for All simply the best
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Art Blakey live in New Jersey in the summer of 1988. I will forever feel that I was a part of living history that night.
willie_grim
THIS GIANT OF JAZZ PLAYS WITH FIERCE POWER.
What makes a master a master and a giant a giant :see ART BLAKELY!!!
I remember sitting in my room alone by the hour when I was only 16 and listening to Art Blakely on my new mono Klipschorn my dad and I built together and practicing drums on anything that sounded like a high hat. Good days and good Jazz, still love it
THAT GUY SCREMAN PROPS IN THE BACKGROUND OF ALL JAZZ MESSENGERS' ALBUMS IS ME LOL!!!! "ALRIGHT NAAA...GETT IT, GET IT!!!"
and Blakey always picked the best young talent for his band.
mooyoo.77
greatest rhythm drummer ever, without a doubt-----
maurinab
I miss that time, 1982, there were lot of Jazz Band and Free Concert. That was the time of great music! I even remember seen Art Blakey live, he was the best drum I've ever seen!
jrowland318
In his time, nobody could make his band swing better, harder than Bu.
The "Master" pretty much sums it up! The history of Jazz was hardly 'bout gettin' along - more like 'survival! BF.
mstrickland4
Art Blakey is the man!!!
dvt06
I like Art Blakey. But I don't understand why the first third of his description is about slamming other artists and forms. "Jazz is ..." so many things. Can't we all just get along?
Smoooooth, warm, dramatic!
What can you say about the Blakester. bro. art was truly before his time !
Growing up in NYC, Art Blakey's was one of my favorite bar bands. Always up to something and always COOKIN'!!! Those were the days....
Mr. Sticks. As I have preached for years, the drummer is the pulse of the band w/o us thier be no life, we are the heart beat - thank you for being an inspiration to me in all the years I have been playing drums.
jasxain
Always and forever the official keeper of time ...

C
the most swangin jazz drummer period...rip art blakey
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