Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: Live In Zurich 1958

Concert date for perhaps the finest Messengers group, created in 1958 by Benny Golson via new personnel and new repertoire

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This particular edition of the Jazz Messengers was possibly the finest of all Art Blakey’s small groups and Benny Golson’s influence as the musical director was considerable. He created a completely new repertoire for the group with Are You Real, Along Came Betty, Blues March, I Remember Clifford, Just By Myself and Whisper Not, which become absorbed into the jazz vernacular almost overnight.

Golson had joined Blakey in April 1958 as a replacement for Jackie McLean but soon became dissatisfied with his colleagues in the group at that time. With the leader’s approval he immediately recruited Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt, all natives of Philadelphia, Golson’s home-town, as replacements.

His choice of the hugely talented Morgan was a master stroke. They had both worked in Dizzy Gillespie’s 1956 big band when Morgan was just 18. Despite Morgan’s youth, the leader featured him on Night In Tunisia. Phil Woods, who played lead alto in the band, once told me “Dizzy didn’t give that solo up to just anybody!” His burnished tone and use of trills, smears and half-valve effects distinguished him as one finest trumpet soloists to emerge in the late 50s. Now’s The Time, Moanin’ and Come Rain Or Come Shine are all fine examples of his work. A particular highlight is the lyrical course he plots through two choruses on Whisper Not. His rarely used harmon creates an intimate quality here, backed by tasty brushwork from the leader.

The contrast with Golson’s Lucky Thompson-style chromaticism was particularly noteworthy, especially on Evidence (aka Justice). Thelonious Monk’s dramatic reconstruction of Just You, Just Me had been recorded by the Messengers with the composer in 1957, when Bill Hardman and Johnny Griffin were in the group, and the tune remained in Blakey’s book until 1960.

All Blakey’s percussive effects are on impressive display here, especially that powerful, trademark press-roll which would surely have overwhelmed soloists less secure than Benny Golson and Lee Morgan.


Discography
CD1: (1) Now’s The Time; The Theme; Moanin’; Whisper Not; Evidence (52.08)
CD2: I Remember Clifford; Just By Myself; Along Came Betty; (2) My Funny Valentine; (1) Come Rain Or Come Shine; Night In Tunisia (49.55)
(1) Lee Morgan (t); Benny Golson (ts); Bobby Timmons (p); Jymie Merritt (b); Blakey (d). Zurich, 4 December 1958.
(2) as (1) omit Morgan, Golson.
Finger Poppin’ Records 117030