Art Blakey

Jazz Icons: Live in '58

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This DVD contains a full-length set by an ultra short-lived (try six months) incarnation of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. The November 30, 1958, appearance was captured at Brussels, Belgium's Palais des Beaux Arts, and finds Blakey (drums) fronting an all-star assemblage with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Bobby Timmons (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), and Benny Golson (sax) -- who split three months later to head up a quintet of his own with Curtis Fuller. Right out of the gate, the Jazz Messengers are unquestionably on a mission as they launch full-throttle into a swinging and vibrant reading of Golson's "Just by Myself." Morgan hurdles forward with brawny yet fluid contributions that yield to Golson's comparatively mellower approach. The melody evolves as he sports some spirited interaction with Timmons, who takes the proverbial driver's seat as his repetitive, compact phrases keep a lid on the proceedings -- even when doubling up the time. Blakey steps out from behind the kit and during a brief bit of banter introduces their latest rush-released platter, 1958's Moanin' -- which had only been recorded a month (to the day, in fact) earlier. He jokes, "We sincerely hope you all buy these...God knows we need the money." The nearly quarter-hour rendition of the project's title track is -- simply put -- a joy, particularly for enthusiasts of the studio version, as both commence in pretty much the same fashion, yet the departures build significantly within themes that had been initially established on the LP. While the camera work is excellent throughout, the tight close-up shots of the horns provide additional depth to the personnel's respective personalities. Golson's haunting lyrical tribute to Clifford Brown -- "I Remember Clifford" -- is sonic gold. Lee Morgan's soulful intonations embody the essence of Brown's stylish approach. Timmons is similarly resplendent with his classy ivory-tickling. Reaching way back in the Blakey/Messengers' repertoire, the combo goes freewheelin' on the Hank Mobley-era selection "It's You or No One." Keep a close eye on Golson's foot as he inconspicuously counts in the number. The whole band charges ahead with Golson and Morgan wailing at the peak of their prowess. Keen-eared listeners can tune in on Timmons' trademark vocalizations as they accompany his mile-a-minute offerings. Demonstrating their immense insight and depth as balladeers, Blakey and company stoke the fire while maintaining a low and steady flame. The exceptional horn section fuses together to create a singular sound, yielding to a luscious lead courtesy of Morgan. The concluding cover of Dizzy Gillespie's jazz standard "A Night in Tunisia" is a tour de force for Blakey. After he makes minor adjustments to his customized Gretsch drum kit, Golson, Timmons, and Morgan all briefly discard their instruments to participate on hand percussion. Blakey's solo reveals all the craft and showmanship he had become known for -- including some call and response with his bandmates. For one last fling, they take a final blow on the Jazz Messengers' typical set closer, Kenny Dorham's "N.Y. Theme." The DVD is accompanied by a 20-page liner booklet packed with a specially penned introduction from Blakey's son Takashi Blakey, as well as a detailed essay from noted jazz authority Michael Cuscuna, photos aplenty, and a two-page memorabilia centerfold. Jazz Icons: Art Blakey is a one-of-a-kind multimedia find that deserves a place in every serious jazz fan's library.

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