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JazzTimes 10: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

In honor of Bu’s 100th birthday, here are 10 of his best performances

10. “Accidentally Yours” (One for All; A&M, 1990)

Recorded six months after his 70th birthday—and six months before his death—One for All finds Art Blakey as propulsive and hail-fellow-well-met as ever. He was leading an uncharacteristic two-tenor lineup, with Dale Barlow and Javon Jackson joining trumpeter Brian Lynch and trombonist Steve Davis on the front line, pianist Geoffrey Keezer and bassist Essiet Okon Essiet in the back. The tune is Keezer’s; the soloists are Keezer, Lynch, and Barlow; the performance is typically polished, energetic, and excellent. Which, ultimately, is the point. Blakey is still encouraging his musicians to express themselves, throwing kicks and prods in behind them while swinging as mightily as ever … but even with these individualists in the ranks, and the dozens of others that had formed the many versions of the Blakey band, the Jazz Messengers on their final recording still sound like the Messengers always sounded.

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.