Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: Four Classic Albums 

Double CD collects four LPs from the late 50s to early 60s, including the 1956 date that formalised the idea of hard (as opposed to cool) bop


The Hard Bop edition of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers represented a fresh cast of characters in the constantly changing personnel of the group.

A few months earlier Blakey had recorded with Donald Byrd, Hank Mobley and Horace Silver in the band (Columbia Legacy CK 65265). That date benefited from memorable Silver and Mobley originals on a session that represented co-leader Horace Silver’s final performances with the group.

Blakey then recruited Bill Hardman and Jackie McLean from Charles Mingus as replacements and the new Messengers debuted on a Stars Of Jazz TV show in Los Angeles on 30 October 1956.

Hardman and McLean respond inventively to the mountains of rhythmic propulsion provided by the dynamic leader, especially on the hard-swinging Cranky Spanky and Just For Marty. The Drum Suite includes Swahilian chanting on The Sacrifice and a memorable work-out by the composer Ray Bryant on his exotic Cubano Chant.

The Impulse!!!!! session finds Curtis Fuller added to a group that had remained fairly consistent personnel-wise since making the classic 1958 Moanin’ recording. He had his own sound within the JJ tradition and his elegant work on the modal Alamode and I Hear A Rhapsody is particularly memorable. Wayne Shorter’s warm Coltrane sound adds to the success of the date but it is Lee Morgan who is the most arresting soloist here. He was with Blakey off and on until 1965 and his introspective harmon solo on the lovely Invitation is a highlight.

The Caravan date introduces one change to the front line with the ebullient Freddie Hubbard taking Morgan’s place. The trumpeters were the same age and with their rich, burnished sounds they clearly took their original inspiration from the great Clifford Brown. Thermo and Skylark are particularly fine examples of Hubbard’s work here. The leader restricts himself to one extended solo on Caravan which is full of light and shade, making full use of the kit, with extensive polyrhythms.

CD1: (1) [Hard Bop] Cranky Spanky; Stella By Starlight: My Heart Stood Still; Little Melonae; Stanley’s Stiff Chickens; Nica’s Tempo; D’s Dilemma; Just For Marty; [Drum Suite] (2) The Sacrifice; Cubano Chant; Oscalypso (79.50)
CD2: (3) [Impulse!!!!! Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!!] Alamode; Invitation; Circus; You Don’t Know What Love Is; I Hear A Rhapsody; Gee Baby Ain’t I Good To You; (4) [Caravan] Caravan; Sweet ’N’ Sour; In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning; This Is For Albert; Skylark; Thermo (77.19)
Blakey (d) with:
(1) Bill Hardman (t); Jackie McLean (as); Sam Dockery (p); Spanky de Brest (d). NYC, 12 & 13 December 1956.
(2) Ray Bryant (p); Oscar Pettiford (b, clo); Jo Jones (d); Charles Wright (v, d); Candido (v, bgo); Sabu (v, cga). NYC, 22 December 1957.
(3) Lee Morgan (t); Curtis Fuller (tb); Wayne Shorter (ts); Bobby Timmons (p); Jymie Merritt (b). New Jersey, 13 & 14 June 1961.
(4) Freddie Hubbard (t); Curtis Fuller (tb); Wayne Shorter (ts); Cedar Walton (p); Reggie Workman (b). NYC, 23 & 24 October 1962.
Avid Jazz AMSC1420