This is the first of two volumes featuring the oft-documented late-'50s/early-'60s incarnation of the Jazz Messengers -- with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Wayne Shorter (tenor sax), Bobby Timmons (piano), and Jymie Merritt (bass). As always, the combo is led by the aggressive skins of Art Blakey (drums). Here all ears are tuned to the proverbial "jazz corner of the world," better known as Birdland, where the quintet serves up a healthy sampling of its concurrent catalog. Although the live recording suffers from a bit of distortion -- which appears to be on the master tape rather than being a manufacturing flaw -- the overall quality of the performance significantly downplays any and all audio anomalies. After a rousing introduction from Birdland's master of ceremonies -- the highly affable Pee Wee Marquette -- the band introduces Hank Mobley's easy-boppin' and appropriately enough titled "The Opener" -- which is punctuated by some stirring interaction between Shorter and Morgan. The syncopated blues changes that drive through Morgan's own "What Know" reflect his abilities as the quintessential composer for these Jazz Messengers. He incorporates his solid swinging improvisational skills into an open and free exchange of sonic ideas, not only with Shorter -- whose solos sound comparatively stilted at times -- but with the rock-solid rhythm section as well, which is led by Morgan's sonic cues. The second half of the disc contains some of the most inspired sides to be found on either installment of Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World. The melodic and sensitive rendition of "'Round About Midnight" ranks among the best cover versions of the Thelonious Monk standard. Again, Shorter and Morgan seamlessly banter back and forth -- with the latter executing a fluidity that contrasts with Shorter's angular responses. A spirited "The Breeze and I" concludes this edition, allowing Timmons the opportunity to stretch out and motivate the exchange of musical ideas with solos that are well-placed and likewise sit comfortably in the context of this brass-driven combo. The sheer volume of releases by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers -- especially this aggregate -- has obscured Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World in the context of the plethora of similarly classic live platters. That said, both volumes are a welcome addition to the library of most any jazz lover.
Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1 Review
by Lindsay Planer
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