Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers: Moanin’

If you collect Blakey you'll know you want this, and if you don't then this is an excellent point at which to start. The remorseless ringmaster is at his best


How good it is to hear these tracks again! Although at the time the Messengers used this programme at almost every concert they played, everyone managed to sound fresh and original on every track. Listen to the magnificent Morgan on the opening of the second Moanin’. He never played that intro before. The one on the first version, even though familiar, is just as startling. And as always the individuals sound as though they were playing for their own pleasure.

Like Louis’s Hot Five or the Goodman Sextet, the Messengers arrived at precisely the right time, and they delighted a generation that was looking for something to fill the hole left when the bebop tooth was extracted. 

Morgan’s career was short (he was shot by his wife). But he made every note of it count, and he was one of the post-bop trumpeters par excellence. Much of the best of the repertoire was composed by Golson – Moanin’, Along Came Betty, I Remember Clifford and Are You Real? are jazz standards. His tenor here is unusually attacking for him although to me the explosive solos by Wayne Shorter that succeeded made the band much more effective. Bobby Timmons was often damned with faint praise, but I’ve always loved his churchy take on Bud Powell. Here as ever he sounds fresh throughout. Golson’s muscular attack on the first session sounds as if he’s found Shorter before Shorter arrived.

If you collect Blakey you’ll know you want this, and if you don’t then this is an excellent point at which to start. The remorseless ringmaster is at his best, binding the band together and punctuating. In such company Merritt receives little attention, but he was the best ever bassist for Blakey and his solos are full-toned and propulsive.

(1) Moanin’; Are You Real?; Along Came Betty; Drum Thunder Suite; Blues March; Come Rain Or Shine; (2) I Remember Clifford; Are You Real?; Moanin’; Whisper Not (78.08)
(1) Lee Morgan (t); Benny Golson (ts); Bobby Timmons (p); Jymie Merritt (b); Blakey (d). New Jersey, 30 October 1958. (2) as above, Paris, 22 November and 17 December 1958.
20th Century Masterworks 170020