The 1968 version of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers did not record any studio albums and was only captured on two club sessions. The most notable soloist in the group at the time was tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, whose passionate and often-intense solos stretched Blakey's hard bop music to the breaking point, showing off the influence of the avant-garde while still remaining connected to chordal improvisation. Trumpeter Bill Hardman was more in the Lee Morgan/Freddie Hubbard tradition while trombonist Julian Priester and pianist Ronnie Matthews were forward-thinking hard boppers and the obscure bassist Larry Evans drove the group well. This CD, a straight reissue (with new liner notes) of an Everest LP, showcases Harper on "Angel Eyes," includes two lengthy renditions of Slide Hampton pieces (including "New World," which is based on "Impressions") and finishes with a relatively concise version of "The Theme" that has an explosive drum solo and some free-form playing by the horns that seems to leave the audience speechless. The recording quality is decent and the fire of this little-known version of the Jazz Messengers certainly communicates decades later.
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AllMusic Review by Scott Yanow