CELEBRATING
50 YEARS

JazzTimes 10: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

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

6. “Buttercorn Lady” (Buttercorn Lady; Limelight, 1966)

By all accounts, Blakey did not appreciate having a bossa nova (“Pensativa”) thrust upon him at the Free for All session in ’64. But as this 1966 live date shows, it wasn’t because he couldn’t do Latin or Caribbean rhythms. “Buttercorn Lady” is a calypso by the Messengers’ newest trumpeter, Chuck Mangione, and the drummer holds the beat with a repeating “splish” sound on his ride cymbal and blithe tom accents. Bassist Reggie Johnson comes merrily along with him, Mangione and tenor saxophonist Frank Mitchell adding occasional, playful fills. The tune has only one solo, by 19-year-old Keith Jarrett (announced by Mangione with a quick little trumpet fanfare), who’s already brimming with ideas and bluesy turns. He would defect to Charles Lloyd’s band within a few weeks of this Los Angeles date, making Buttercorn Lady a document of one of Blakey’s more obscure and ephemeral lineups.

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.