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Artist’s Choice: Javon Jackson on Art Blakey

Today’s top jazz performers pick 10 favorite tracks by the players, singers and styles that helped define them.

Art Blakey
Art Blakey c/o Gretsch Drums
Javon Jackson

Art Blakey provided me with countless opportunities and lessons as a Jazz Messenger. He was always willing to support me as a musician and a human being. In doing so, he gave me his thoughts and answers to my questions pure, with no sugarcoating. I owe him a great deal and truly appreciate every moment spent with my man “Bu,” truly one of the most dynamic musicians we have known.


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Free for All (Blue Note, 1964)

One of my favorite Jazz Messengers tracks-so much energy and passion. You can even hear Art’s voice throughout the track enjoying the music.

“Split Kick”

Art Blakey A Night at Birdland, Vol. 1 (Blue Note, 1954)

I heard this track hundreds of times in my home as a child. Art’s ensemble playing is amazing. He is a wizard!

“Just Knock on My Door”

Art Blakey A Jazz Message (Impulse!, 1963)

A unique quartet that includes Art, Sonny Stitt, McCoy Tyner and Art Davis. Masterful!

“Nica’s Dream”
Art Blakey with the Original Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956)

I don’t have a statement for this track. If you have heard it, you understand: It’s beautiful to the point of being hypnotic.

“One for Daddy-O”

Cannonball Adderley Somethin’ Else (Blue Note, 1958)

Wow, this one is something else. The blues!


John Coltrane The Bethlehem Years (Bethlehem, 1957)

It’s great to hear Coltrane and Art together. Art loved him and loved to speak about him.

“Well, You Needn’t”
Monk’s Music (Blue Note, 1957)

Art Blakey and his interpretation of Thelonious Monk’s compositions was and is a pleasure for me to witness, whether on the bandstand with him or through recordings like this one.


Sonny Rollins Volume Two (Blue Note, 1957)

Art Blakey with Sonny, J.J. Johnson, Monk, Horace Silver and Paul Chambers, all on one track. Six stylists together!


Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers Moanin’ (Blue Note, 1958)

The hit! This or “Blues March”: We had to play one of the two at every performance.


Charlie Parker One Night in Birdland (Columbia, 1950)

This is another one for which there are no words. Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro, Bud Powell, Curly Russell and Art Blakey. The recording quality isn’t great, but it’s still one that you must hear!

Originally Published