Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Olympia Concert

Vinyl reissue of 1958 Paris concerts, played weeks after the Moanin' studio session, shows how the gloves came off Blakey played live


Shortly after recording Moanin’ for Blue Note in 1958 Blakey and his new band took off for Paris, France and played this well attended concert at the Olympia. Blakey is at full turbo-charged force on Moanin’ here. This reading is wild and free, indicating the difference between the Messengers in the studio and live in front of a large, enthusiastic audience.

The band responds with highly charged trumpet and tenor sax solos with the drums thrashing them forward. Blakey controls the dynamics from the drum stool but once the quieter passages are completed, he lets rip with a barrage of forward thrust.

Lee Morgan is on good form both open and muted. His lyrical solo on I Remember Clifford is melodic and reverent, no doubt triggered by Blakey’s quieter drumming. Timmons sticks to his gospel-flavoured blues style throughout, even on the ballads. Merritt is a strong, accurate bassist here although he was swamped by Blakey on some releases. This was, of course, one of Blakey’s very best units.

Five of the seven tracks are by Benny Golson. Justice, a rarely heard Thelonious Monk tune, gets a strong, medium tempo workout.

This vinyl reissue uses the original French cover artwork and extends the album to a gatefold including two additional tracks on a second LP. The gatefold centre has black and white photos of Morgan and Golson backstage at the Olympia with a fan, and a photograph of the quintet on stage. The sound from this 180-gram vinyl reissue is excellent. The album was analogue-mastered and cut by Kevin Gray at Cohearent and is about the closest it is possible to get to live sound.

Just By Myself; I Remember Clifford; Are You Real; Moanin’; Justice; Blues March; Whisper Not (55.59)
Lee Morgan (t); Benny Golson (ts); Bobby Timmons (p); Jimmy Merritt (b); Blakey (d). The Olympia, Paris, 22 November & 17 December 1958.
Fontana 680.202 / Sam Records, Paris