Art Blakey / Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

The Sesjun Radio Shows

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With a career as a bandleader that spanned over a half-century, Art Blakey specialized in recruiting young players, encouraging them to compose and arrange for his band, and teaching them the fundamentals that helped make them successful. It's no wonder that so many musicians who worked with the drummer went on to landing record deals and great careers of their own. The previously unissued live performances in this two-CD set (originally recorded for radio broadcast in two clubs in the Netherlands) feature portions of three separate sets with different lineups. Blakey provides the perfect pulse for his men throughout each date, inspiring them to take chances and play their best. The first five songs, from 1978 feature trumpeter Valery Ponomarev, tenor saxophonist David Schnitter, alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, pianist James Williams, and bassist Dennis Irwin. Watson, who joined Blakey after finishing his music degree at the University of Miami, is in top form and contributed the driving "Time Will Tell" and "E.T.A.," the latter which became one of his signature songs. Ponomarev is superb in his showcase with the rhythm section on muted horn in an extended workout of the standard "My One and Only Love." Williams contributed the hip, funky "Dr. J." For the 1980 concert, Billy Pierce takes over on tenor and Charles Fambrough on bass. Most of this set features songs long in Blakey's book (including "Along Came Betty," a hard-charging "Blues March," and "Free For All"), though Williams' "1977 A.D." explodes out of the gate and deserves to be better known. The 1983 show has four new members: trumpeter Terence Blanchard, alto saxophonist Donald Harrison, tenor and soprano saxophonist Jean Toussaint, and pianist Johnny O'Neal. Fambrough's "Little Man" opens deceptively in a quiet manner, eventually reaching a feverish climax midway with Toussaint's blazing soprano. Toussaint also steals the show on his smaller instrument in yet another rendition of Bobby Timmons' "Moanin'," a jazz classic that never gets old. No matter how many times Art Blakey played his repertoire with his various units of the Jazz Messengers, the music remained fresh because of the lessons he taught the budding young jazzmen. This rewarding collection adds a new chapter to Art Blakey's already extensive discography.

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