This set collects both installments of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers' Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World (1961) in a comprehensive two-CD compendium, sporting thoroughly remastered sound by legendary jazz producer/engineer Rudy Van Gelder. Audio-conscious consumers should be aware of the distortion that somewhat marred the original vinyl, as well as all subsequent pressings. Unfortunately, it seems to have been inherent in the master tapes. While it occasionally reveals itself during the more dynamic contrasts and passages, the combo's swinging bop and sheer musicality outweigh any and all anomalies. Birdland (aka "the jazz corner of the world") produced some of Art Blakey's (drums) most revered live recordings. In addition to these volumes, enthusiasts are equally encouraged to locate the genre-defining A Night at Birdland (1954). For the Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World sides, listeners fast-forward six years to Blakey's latest quintet, which includes the respective talents of Lee Morgan (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass) -- all of whom are solidly grounded to Blakey's firm yet profound backbeat.
The lyrical performance style that began to emerge from Shorter in the early to mid-'60s can be heard developing during his tenure as a Jazz Messenger. He contrasts Morgan's limber and lilting solos and improvisations, which are especially notable on "'Round About Midnight" and the spirited "The Breeze and I." The latter title also allows Timmons the opportunity to stretch out and motivate the melody. "High Modes" showcases Merritt's pulsating and hypnotic basslines as he weaves a smoky groove beneath Morgan and Shorter's scintillating leads. In addition to "High Modes," this set features two more Hank Mobley compositions. The syncopated and infectiously rhythmic "Night Watch" is highlighted by Shorter, as he begins to fully grasp his improvisational skills that seem to materialize right before the keen-eared listener. He is quickly developing into the undaunted instrumentalist who would revolutionize modern jazz with Miles Davis in the mid-'60s. The set concludes with a rousing rendition of Shorter's "The Summit," which became a comparable standard for this version of the Jazz Messengers. Once again the lines fly fast and furious between Shorter and Morgan, with Timmons securely anchoring the soloists to the equally involved rhythm section. The 2002 reissue includes a newly inked essay from jazz historian Bob Blumenthal as well as reproductions of Leonard Feather's original sleeve notes. The sheer volume of releases by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers arguably makes this set somewhat obscured by the plethora of similarly classic live platters. However, the 2002 complete Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World would be a welcome addition to the library of most any jazz lover.