Art Blakey / Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

Night in Tunisia [1979]

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Not to be confused with the earlier Art Blakey Blue Note album with the same name, this studio date recorded in Japan has languished somewhat in obscurity, perhaps because it revisits three songs well established by earlier and better known editions of the Jazz Messengers. Clocking in at just under 35 minutes, it's a little brief for a CD, but the music is first rate. The lineup features alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, pianist James Williams, and some musicians who haven't recorded nearly as extensively since leaving Blakey, including the Russian trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, tenor saxophonist David Schnitter, and bassist Dennis Irwin. The title track is a long one at 18 minutes, but none of the soloists run out of ideas and the rhythm section keeps the fires burning. Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'" is in good hands with Williams at the keyboard, as he is every bit as soulful. Blakey drives his band with a skilled introduction to "Blues March," though the ensemble passages seem a tad ragged. Although it can't be considered an essential Blakey CD, this now unavailable release is worth acquiring by fans of hard bop if found for a reasonable price.

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