Art Blakey, leader of the highly influential hard-bop group The Jazz Messengers (which was usually a quintet or a sextet), made a rare tour with an 11-piece little big band in mid-1980. Included among the personnel were such unknown youngsters as trumpeter Wynton Marsalis (then age 18), Branford Marsalis on baritone and alto, trombonist Robin Eubanks and guitarist Kevin Eubanks. The remarkable group also included the regular members of The Jazz Messengers (trumpeter Valeri Ponomarev, altoist Bobby Watson, tenor saxophonist Billy Pierce and pianist James Williams) and even a second drummer, John Ramsey. The music (three Bobby Watson compositions, the standard "Stairway to the Stars" and Williams's blues "Minor Thesis") is consistently excellent and all of the musicians get their chance to solo. A historically significant and rather enjoyable release.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow