Recorded in 1956, Art Blakey's Drum Suite is a wonderful hybrid of African, Latin, and hard bop rhythms that prefigures the concept of Afro-beat by at least a decade, and the sheer energy, not to mention its very special and fresh-sounding intimacy, make it especially astounding. Even more amazing is that the three parts of the suite -- Blakey's "The Sacrifice," Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant," and Oscar Pettiford's "Oscalypso" -- were recorded straight through live, and were only intended to be a pre-take run-through, but as is obvious here, Blakey and company nailed the whole thing right out of the box. The original LP was issued by Columbia with the drum suite on one side, and three tracks recorded by a 1956 version of the Jazz Messengers (Bill Hardman, Jackie McLean, Sam Dockery, and Spanky DeBrest) for Blakey's first Columbia album, Hard Bop, on the other side. Groundbreaking for its time, and still sounding vital, powerful, and visionary, the Drum Suite album is somewhat of a lost masterpiece that deserves a fresh audience.
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AllMusic Review by Steve Leggett