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Art Blakey: The Jazz Messengers

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You can listen to jazz every day for 40 years and still find that some of it is more beautiful than you ever realized, even in the case of recordings you thought you had memorized. So I am finding with this classic that was among the first jazz records I ever owned. Is it nostalgia that makes me prefer this even to the spectacular Birdland dates with Brownie? Or is it, as Kenny Washington’s fine notes suggest, that this was where the Messenger sound really jelled? It need hardly be said that hearing Blakey and Silver together, with Doug Watkins’ perfect support, is an almost sensual pleasure, every note from every player blending into an irresistibly swinging whole. Nor is it news at this date that Hank Mobley was a wonderfully individualistic and soulful player and Donald Byrd an excellent trumpet voice whose interpretation of Brownie’s gospel was nearly ideal for this and many other groups. It is worth pointing out that an important element of this great record is the extremely tight and demanding arrangements—hard bop wasn’t just great blowing. The original program of five superb Silver and Mobley compositions and two standards is augmented by four pieces included on a later release and one previously unreleased track. This is one of the quintessential recordings of modern jazz.

Originally Published