Night Lights Classic Jazz

Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers: Class of ’57

Art Blakey led the much-noted Jazz Messengers for four decades, and the lesser-known 1957 edition gave him one of his most diverse years on record.

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Art Blakey 1957

Photo: Album cover art

Blakey's Blue Note album RITUAL was one of eight LPs that the drummer recorded in a busy year of studio work.

1957 was a prolific year for Art Blakey, the volcanic drummer and leader of the Jazz Messengers.

The Messengers were one of jazz’s most-noted and longest-running collectives, and young musicians such as Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Woody Shaw, Keith Jarrett, and Wynton Marsalis all pulled tours of duty with the group, sometimes called “the hardbop academy.”

Its bop-and-funk-driven history stretches from the late 1940s to the beginning of the 1990s; the lesser-known 1957 edition included saxophonists Jackie McLean and Johnny Griffin, as well as trumpeter Bill Hardman, whose chemistry with McLean one writer described as “beautiful, tart…their brash, peppery tones created a distinctive front-line sound.”

Art Blakey RitualBlakey recorded a myriad of albums in 1957 for various labels, including Columbia, Bethlehem, RCA, and Pacific Jazz, resulting in one of his most diverse years on record. We’ll hear music from eight different LPs, including the Messengers’ collaboration with Thelonious Monk, the three-horn Night in Tunisia date, one of Blakey’s percussion/rhythm numbers, and two “Jazz-Messengers-plus” sides that venture into the realm of Blakey big-band.

Watch a slightly later edition of the Messengers, with Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter in the frontline, performing “Blues March” in 1959:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPniH-Ijbi4

Music Heard On This Episode

Cranky Spanky
Art Blakey — Hard Bop (Columbia/Mosaic, 1957)
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Cranky Spanky
Art Blakey — Hard Bop (Columbia/Mosaic, 1957)

Notes: Written by trumpeter Bill Hardman.

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Nica's Tempo
Art Blakey — Drum Suite (Columbia, 1957)

Notes: Gigi Gryce tune, featuring alto saxophonist Jackie McLean and trumpeter Bill Hardman.

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Mirage
Art Blakey — Midnight Session (Elektra/Savoy, 1957)

Notes: Mal Waldron composition.

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Evans
Art Blakey — A Night in Tunisia (Bluebird, 1957)

Notes: Sonny Rollins tune, featuring saxophonists Jackie McLean and Johnny Griffin.

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Dee's Dilemma
Art Blakey — Drum Suite (Columbia, 1957)

Notes: Midpoint music bed.

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In Walked Bud
Art Blakey/Thelonious Monk — Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (Atlantic, 1957)

Notes: Monk composition. Johnny Griffin on tenor sax.

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Cubano Chant
Art Blakey — Drum Suite (Columbia, 1957)

Notes: Ray Bryant composition. Sabu Martinez, Candido Camero, and Jo Jones in percussion section.

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Social Call
Art Blakey — Theory of Art (RCA, 1957)

Notes: Gigi Gryce tune, featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet.

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Late Date
Art Blakey — John Coltrane: the Bethlehem Years (Bethlehem/Rhino, 1957)

Notes: Melba Liston tune and arrangement.

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Sam's Tune
Art Blakey — Ritual (Pacific Jazz, 1957)

Notes: Written by pianist Sam Dockery. With Jackie McLean on alto sax and Bill Hardman on trumpet.

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David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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  • Bill Forbes

    I have long been a fan of the McLean/Hardman/Dockery band (sometimes supplemented by Griffin). At a time when, for the many, the Messengers meant Moanin’ with Morgan, Golson and Timmons, I sang the praises – usually to deaf ears – of this previous, more boppish outfit. But for a band which lacked mass popular appeal, they certainly spent a lot of time in the recording studios! Over the years, I’ve managed to acquire seven albums by them, and I don’t think I’ve got them all!

  • http://www.leyla-najma.com Dan

    Love Blakey. Had the opportunity to see the mid 80′s version with James Williams and Valery Ponomarav.

  • http://www.leyla-najma.com/ Dan

    Love Blakey. Had the opportunity to see the mid 80's version with James Williams and Valery Ponomarav.

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