Art Blakey

Live: Olympia 5-13-61, Pt. 2

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The second part of Art Blakey's steaming 1961 Paris date is superior to Pt. 1 in many respects -- sound is better for some odd reason, as if the balances on the first evening weren't set right. But the most important thing is the material and the performance. Here, knowing what to expect from Parisian audiences, Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, and Jamie Merritt go for the jugular with a scathing program of hard bop, knotty bebop, and greasy blues. From the seemingly inauspicious "It's Only a Paper Moon," with a killer piano break from Timmons, the band storms into Shorter's "Noise in the Attic," with him playing legato more furiously than on any recording. Then it's time for the blues to enter with Timmons' "Moanin'." This may be the definitive version of the tune, with Morgan and Shorter going head to head as Blakey double times them, pushing them further into each other's faces while Timmons plays a series of extended harmonic blues chords that invert the line and striate the interval simultaneously. Whew. After "Moanin," they could have ended the set, but ease into mid-tempo with "I Didn't Know What Time It Was" before entering the fire pit once again with Benny Golson's "Blues March," where Blakey's solo prompts Timmons to double him once he climbs out, and Blakey effortlessly rises to the occasion. Finally, as if the night weren't intense enough, the band wails into a death-defying sprint on "Night in Tunisia," with both horns coming off the melody line into quick vamps that set up their solos. The breaks challenge each other and the rhythm section to keep the tempo that is nearly twice as fast as Gillespie's original smoker. What a show to have on tape, and what a recording by this version of the Jazz Messengers.

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