Recorded Live at Umbria Jazz, 20July 1976
- Along came betty
- Blues march
- All the Things You Are
- Gipsy Folk Tales
Art Blakey – Drums
David Schmitter – Tenor Sax
Bill Hardman – Trumpet
Mickey Tucker – Piano
Cameron Brown – Bass
Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers was the band where many
of today’s jazz superstars learned their craft. Wayne Shorter, Hank
Mobley, Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Chuck
Mangione and the Marsalis Brothers are just a few.
Blakey who started out as a pianist, had been the
drummer in the bands of Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine, before
forming with Horace Silver the first Jazz Messengers in 1954. This
recording then was some 22 years on and he carried on until he died
in 2002, always employing outstanding young musicians and inspiring
them to exceptional heights of improvisation. He was a hard taskmaster
who demanded and got 100% effort from everyone, every night. As he
always gave 120% effort it was not unreasonable. The Messengers style
became known as ‘hard bop’ and they spawned a host of other bands
playing in that style.
This session was recorded in the open air, but the
sound quality is good, having been digitally re-mastered for this
Backgammon has an introductory solo from Blakey,
followed by a theme statement from the band and some exciting trumpet
work from Bill Hardman, who like David Schmitter who follows, starts
quietly and builds to a climax at the end of the solo. Mickey Tucker
on piano solos with great ideas and technique before Blakey leads
the band back into the theme. This is classic Jazz Messengers; ‘hard
bop’ at it’s best, creative and exciting.
Along Came Betty has the two horns in unison and
again Hardman plays the first solo, the sleeve note mentions free
improvisation, I suspect that may be wishful thinking on the part
of someone who likes that sort of thing. These guys thankfully stay
around the original sequence. Bass player Cameron Brown comes into
his own on this number and what a contribution he makes, great big
sound, solid technique and a constant feed of ideas to the front line.
How good it is to hear the real double bass and not bass guitar.
Uranus has Schmitter as first soloist and the rhythm
section drives him on in a seemingly endless flow of improvisations,
before Hardman continues in a similar vein. They are well matched
and sound comfortable and happy playing together. Blakey as always
drives the soloists to great heights with a barrage of ideas to kick
Blues March is a Jazz Messengers classic, but this
version taken at a faster tempo than the original, is ideal jazz festival
material and demonstrates the group’s superb ability with the blues.
All the Things You Are is a feature for Mickey Tucker
on Piano, it starts slowly in a ‘Tatumesque’ mode, goes Latin and
even has a few bars of stride piano. Mickey Tucker is an outstanding
pianist, he has a solid technique, great improvisational skills and
his backings to the other soloists are first class.
Gipsy Folk Tales is in the classic Jazz Messengers
mould, busy ensembles played hard, followed by good solos driven along
by this superb rhythm section. I have not heard this edition of the
Messengers before, but if TDK have another set in their archives,
I hope they release it soon.