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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

3. “Stanley’s Stiff Chickens” (Hard Bop; Columbia, 1957)

By December 1956, Blakey was running a completely different band from the one that had recorded “Nica’s Dream” in April: Jackie McLean on alto saxophone, Bill Hardman on trumpet (beginning a long on-and-off membership in the band), Sam Dockery on piano, and Spanky DeBrest on bass. The two horn players co-wrote “Stanley’s Stiff Chickens” (although a two-note Dockery motif seems to be its basis), a tune that’s apparently designed to fulfill the promise of the album title. McLean’s solo in particular is a fine showcase for his then-rapidly maturing style, though Hardman also does excellent work, as do Dockery and DeBrest. As for Blakey himself, “Stanley’s Stiff Chickens” is one of his subtler tracks … unless you count the change-up fills he throws into the trumpet and sax solos, perhaps in a (failed) attempt to confound the players.

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.