Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers / Art Blakey

At the Cafe Bohemia, Vol. 2

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Volume deux of the 1955 Cafe Bohemia sessions from Art Blakey's second edition Jazz Messengers is better than the first. The music is more energetic, cohesive, and pushes the hard bop farther. Where the first volume featured compositions of newly recruited trumpeter Kenny Dorham, it is tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley asserting himself on the bandstand with his set pieces that formed the foundation of the first studio edition of the quintet that included Donald Byrd. Here, Mobley does not defer to Dorham, pushing his sound forward without compromising his vision. "Sportin' Crowd" is definitely an ear opener, a straight-ahead, hard bop gem based on the changes of the Sonny Rollins' classic "Tenor Madness." A live version of "Hank's Symphony" -- recapitulated from the studio version on the original Jazz Messengers' LP for the Columbia label -- has an Asian and calypso flair with many accented notes and a secondary melody. The killer track is Mobley's "Avila & Tequila," drenched in Blakey's churning Afro-Cuban beats, filled with multiple modal devices especially from Horace Silver, and charges ahead as if there was no tomorrow -- a truly memorable and vital performance. The other tracks may seem to pale by comparison, but the easy, bluesy "Like Someone in Love," a short ballad version of "Yesterdays" finally featuring trumpeter Dorham, and Mobley's luscious tenor during the ultimate tearjerker "I Waited for You" offer stark contrast while losing no internal intensity. It is on "Just One of Those Things" where the band really straightens up and convenes in tandem, a solid cohesion where Dorham and Mobley work like an effortless, major league shortstop and second base double-play combination. "Gone with the Wind" finishes this set in soulful, legato, dispassionate refrains. This is a more consistent effort than the first volume, with a much anticipated, late-night set still on the horizon.

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