Friday, 3 August 2018

Art Blakey & The Afro-Drum Ensemble ‎– The African Beat (1976)

Style: Afro-Cuban Jazz
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blue Note

A1.   Prayer By Solomon G. Ilori
A2.   Ife L'Ayo (There Is Happiness In Love)
A3.   Obirin African (Woman Of Africa)
A4.   Love, The Mystery Of
B1.   Ero Ti Nr'ojeje
B2.   Ayiko Ayiko (Welcome, Welcome, My Darling)
B3.   Tobi Ilu

Bass – Ahmed Abdul-Malik
Bata, Congas – Robert Crowder
Congas – James Ola Folami
Congas, Drums [Telegraph Drum], Percussion [Double Gong] – Chief Bey
Drums [Bambara Drum, Log Drum, Corboro Drum], Percussion [Double Gong] – Montego Joe
Drums, Timpani, Gong, Drums [Telegraph Drum] – Art Blakey
Oboe, Flute, Saxophone [Tenor], Horns [Cow Horn], Kalimba – Yusef Lateef
Percussion [Chekere], Maracas [African Maracas], Congas – Garvin Masseaux
Timpani – Curtis Fuller
Vocals, Whistle [Penny Whistle], Talking Drum – Solomon G. Ilori
Producer – Alfred Lion
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder

Bridging cultures, Art Blakey combined powerful African rhythms and American jazz melodies on a session that Blue Note reissued recently because the album explores roots common to all of jazz. Blakey’s ensemble for this 1962 project included artists from both worlds: Solomon G. Ilori and James Ola. Folami are from Nigeria, Chief Bey is from Senegal, and Montego Joe is from Jamaica. 
Man, does Art Blakey play loud on this session! Gentle melodic instruments are served with severe punctuation as Blakey attempts to add his drum set in contrast to the more natural sounds. Strong bass work from Ahmed Abdul-Malik holds it all together. Native drums and smaller percussion instruments set up hypnotic rhythms that form a seamless foundation. Yusef Lateef provides aural images of Northern African dancing women on "Obirin African" through an exotic flute arrangement. "Ayiko, Ayiko" serves to demonstrate a thorough combination of the two cultures as Lateef pours out spirited tenor saxophone jive alongside a relaxed folksong tune. The longest piece on the album, "Love, the Mystery of," places oboe in the featured role in front of various chants, hypnotic percussion and a strong syncopated bass. Art Blakey brought together an ideal membership for his searching project, but laid it on much too harshly each time he decided to add his own drum kit participation.
Jim Santella / All About Jazz

Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers ‎– Moanin' (1958)

Style: Hard Bop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Blue Note

1.   Moanin'
2.   Are You Real
3.   Along Came Betty
4.   First Theme: Drum Thunder
6.   Third Theme: Harlem's Disciples
7.   Blues March
8.   Come Rain Or Come Shine

Bass – Jymie Merritt
Drums – Art Blakey
Piano – Bobby Timmons
Tenor Saxophone – Benny Golson
Trumpet – Lee Morgan
Producer – Alfred Lion
Recorded By – Rudy Van Gelder

Throughout its history, jazz has constantly evolved, developing from and reacting against its earlier incarnations. The mid-1940s saw bebop reinvent jazz as an artist's genre, distinct from the swing style that was the popular music throughout the 1930s and '40s. Bebop was music for listening, not dancing, and the emphasis became virtuosic improvised solos instead of memorable tunes and arrangements. However, the advent of bebop itself led to further reactions and developments within jazz during the 1950s. The newer genre again divided; cool jazz became a reaction against bebop, while hard bop maintained much of the bebop aesthetic. 
Hard bop players continued in the bebop idiom by emphasizing improvisation, swinging rhythms, and an aggressive, driving rhythm section. Hard bop artists retained bebop's standard song forms of 12-bar blues and 32-bar forms as well as the preference for small combos consisting of a rhythm section plus one or two horns. 
One of the premier hard bop artists and, in fact, the one who coined the term with the 1956 album Hard Bop, is drummer and bandleader Art Blakey. His band, the Jazz Messengers, was an extremely talented and influential group from its conception. Blakey formed the Jazz Messengers in 1953 with pianist Horace Silver, but, with the group's personnel constantly changing, few artists spent an extended period. This frequent turnover resulted in Blakey consistently working with the talented youth on the jazz scene. His band served as a developmental stage for future bandleaders including Hank Mobley, Kenny Dorham, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Chuck Mangione, Jackie McLean, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Wynton Marsalis, Benny Golson, and Bobby Timmons. 
On October 30, 1958 Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recorded the album Moanin' at Van Gelder Studio in New Jersey for the Blue Note label. Moanin' is one of the most influential and important hard bop albums due to its outstanding compositions, arrangements, and personnel. The quintet at this time consisted of Pittsburgh native Art Blakey on drums, trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson, bassist Jymie Merritt, and pianist Bobby Timmons, all from Philadelphia. Benny Golson wrote the arrangements and contributed four of the album's six tracks. The title track, "Moanin,'" composed by pianist Bobby Timmons, became the greatest hit of Blakey's lengthy career. 
Despite being only twenty years old at the time of the recording, Lee Morgan had already spent two years touring with Dizzy Gillespie's band. His improvisational contributions are indispensable to the sound of the album. Morgan and Benny Golson carry the melodic and solo responsibilities as the only horns in the band. Clifford Brown strongly influenced Morgan's style, characterized by an aggressive rhythmic attack, long melodic phrases, and a brassy timbre.
Golson performed with artists such as Tadd Dameron, Lionel Hampton, and Johnny Hodges before joining the Dizzy Gillespie band on a tour of South America from 1956-58, the same years Morgan played for Gillespie. Golson's tunes "Are You Real?," "Along Came Betty," "The Drum Thunder Suite," and "Blues March" lend a notable variety and versatility to Moanin', utilizing varied song forms and musical styles. As an improviser, Golson's smooth tone and fluid lines contrast with and complement the aggressive playing of Lee Morgan. 
Morgan and Golson provide a solid frontline, but the Jazz Messengers rhythm section drives the band and propels the soloists to ever higher levels. Pianist Bobby Timmons, a jazz veteran who played with Kenny Dorham's Jazz Prophets, Chet Baker, Sonny Stitt, and Maynard Ferguson, composed the title track and consistently makes his presence felt through his tasteful comping and solos. Duke Ellington's bassist Jimmy Blanton especially inspired the Jazz Messenger's Jymie Merritt, though he studied formally with a member of the Philadelphia Symphony at the Ornstein Music School. His first gigs were with Tadd Dameron, Benny Golson, John Coltrane, Philly Joe Jones, and, from 1955- 57, he toured with blues artist B.B. King, Merritt provides the bass lines and rhythmic punctuation depending on the style of the song and is featured as a soloist several times throughout the album. 
Drummer and bandleader Art Blakey provides the aggressive, driving pulse that propels the Jazz Messengers and is so characteristic of the hard bop style. Blakey was 39 at the time of this recording, the Jazz Messengers had already progressed through several lineups, and Blakey remained the only constant. Despite the changing personnel, the Jazz Messengers remained the archetypal hard bop group, characterized by an emphasis on the blues roots of the music. Blakey is notable for his aggressive drumming, use of polyrhythm, musical interactions with his soloists, and his personality. Blakey felt strongly that jazz was underappreciated in America and he sought to bring it to a broader audience. As a bandleader, he provided his musicians with ample space for solos and encouraged them to contribute compositions and arrangements. He constantly added new talent to his band and made no effort to prevent musicians from leaving the Jazz Messengers. 
This combination of Pennsylvania born musicians collaborated to record one of the milestones of hard bop. The track listing includes Bobby Timmons' "Moanin';" Benny Golson's "Are You Real?," "Along Came Betty," "The Drum Thunder Suite," and "Blues March;" and a single standard, Arlen and Mercer's "Come Rain or Come Shine." The selection of songs for Moanin' demonstrates the variety of styles in which the Jazz Messengers comfortably performed. The album features aspects of blues, funky jazz, Latin-American music, and New Orleans style marching bands. 
The song "Moanin'" is one of the tunes that helped to generate the "soul jazz" style of the late '50s and early '60s. Influenced by gospel, "Moanin'" makes use of call-and-response technique between the piano and horns. Instead of a walking bass, Merritt plays a rhythmically driving bass line, while Blakey plays a swing rhythm with emphasis on beats two and four. Morgan, Golson, and Timmons all play two-chorus solos followed by one chorus by Jymie Merritt. Morgan's solo makes use of blues inflections and maintains its cohesion through the use of catchy riffs. Golson proceeds into his solo from the end of Morgan's and uses a similar riff-based approach. Timmons continues in a bluesy style, alternating piano runs with chords, and progressing to develop upon a series of formulaic riffs. "Moanin'" concludes with the return of the head and a short piano tag. This song is a prime example of funky or soul jazz. 
Benny Golson's "Drum Thunder Suite" was composed to satisfy Blakey's desire to record a song using mallets extensively. The suite consists of three contrasting themes. The first theme, "Drum Thunder," is primarily a drum solo with horns playing short melodic ideas in unison (soli writing). The second theme, "Cry a Blue Tear," utilizes a strongly Latin rhythm in the drums. It features a lyrical melody with trumpet and saxophone playing complementary lines. The final theme, "Harlem's Disciples," begins with a funky melody, and then a piano solo sets the stage for the concluding drum solo. "The Drum Thunder Suite" makes interesting use of different stylistic approaches and arranging techniques. 
"Blues March," also composed by Benny Golson, is intended to invoke the spirit of a marching band, with the drums clearly marking all four beats of the measure. The rhythm section is minimally invasive in this tune, and all of the listener's attention is drawn to the soloist. Morgan and Golson play typically bluesy choruses, though Bobby Timmons' solo is the highlight of the track. His solo begins with a simple line, developing into an exciting, chordal conclusion. 
Golson's "Are You Real?" is a more straightforward hard bop tune featuring a 32-bar chorus and a faster tempo. The standard "Come Rain or Come Shine" is performed with the attention to melody and arrangement not typically associated with hard bop, but is convincingly and faithfully represented by the Jazz Messengers. 
Moanin' is one of hard bop's seminal albums due to the extremely high quality of the personnel and compositions featured. The mastery with which Lee Morgan and Benny Golson provide the frontline is further elevated by the solidarity of Timmons, Merritt, and Blakey. It is a testament to the great quality of the performers, compositions, and the hard bop genre. The accessibility of the album is surely a result of Art Blakey's desire to promote jazz as an art at a time when public interest in the music was waning, and the genre as a whole was threatened by the popularity of emerging musical styles such as doo-wop and rock and roll.
Mike Hoppenheim / All About Jazz

Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers ‎– Drum Suite (1957)

Style: Afro-Cuban, Hard Bop
Format: CD, Vinyl
Label: Columbia

Drum Suite
A1.   The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble - The Sacrifice
A2.   The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble - Cubano Chant
A3.   The Art Blakey Percussion Ensemble - Oscalypso
The Jazz Messengers
B1.   The Jazz Messengers - Nica's Tempo
B2.   The Jazz Messengers - D's Dilemma
B3.   The Jazz Messengers - Just For Marty

Alto Saxophone – Jackie McLean
Bass – Spanky deBrest
Bass, Cello – Oscar Pettiford
Bongos – Candido
Bongos – Sabu
Drums – Art Blakey
Drums – Jo Jones
Drums, Timpani, Gong – Charles Wright)
Piano – Ray Bryant
Piano – Sam Dockery
Trumpet – Bill Hardman

The album is made up of two sessions. Side A consists of exotic, Afro-Cuban rhythms and the flipside is a swell session of Blakey’s working band of the period consisting of alto saxophonist Jackie McLean, trumpeter Bill Hardman, pianist Sam Dockery and bassist Spanky DeBrest. The first part (as well as the classy album cover) suggests that Art Blakey was eager to put Africa back into jazz. Yet, in drummer Art Taylor’s book of interviews Notes And Tones, (Da Capo, 1982) Blakey insisted that he has always felt that ‘our music has nothing to do with Africa. (…) No America, no jazz. (…) African music is entirely different, and the Africans are much more advanced than we are rhythmically, though we’re more advanced harmonically.’ In this view, which perhaps unintentionally ignores the impact of both Afro(-Cuban) rhythm and imported European musical standards on the cradle of jazz, New Orleans, Drum Suite isn’t jazz but African music. Or better said, African music played by American men of jazz. But Blakey would know. The Pittsburgh-born drummer traveled in Africa for almost a year in 1949. By his own account, just listening, not drumming. 
Tossing two sessions together on an album was a not uncommon practice in the classic jazz era. It could have a number of reasons. Sometimes, studio time ran out. And occasionally, musicians weren’t available anymore due to other obligations. Companies also might go for the easy way (and/or a fast buck), rounding out albums with sessions from the vault. Such albums usually lack coherence, an encompassing idea. Drum Suite is incoherent. But it’s a high quality affair, so who cares? 
Beat happening! The Afro-Cuban tunes, wherein Blakey is assisted by drummers Jo Jones and Charles “Specs” Wright, the bongo’s of Candido and Sabu Martinez, bassist Oscar Pettiford and pianist Ray Bryant, sans horns, get you into the groove, no doubt. The aptly-titled The Sacrifice starts off with an indelible African backwoods chant, slowly but surely developing into a multi-layered rumble of toms, flavored with chubby chords and staccato lines by Ray Bryant. The tom-figure from the opening is repeated at the end. Interestingly, it’s reminiscent of the drum part in Richard Strauss’ Also Sprach Zaratustra, which was used to such imposing effect in Stanley Kubrick’s epic 1968 science-fiction movie 2001 A Space Odyssee. 
Ray Bryant will undoubtly have been thrilled by the re-visit of his original tune Cubano Chant. Initially, Bryant had recorded it in 1956 on the Epic LP Ray Bryant Trio, including, coincidentally, Jo Jones and Candido. The broadened palette of instruments results in a piece of tough swing, highlighting Bryant’s inventive left hand, which generally puts emphasis on the low register and down-home fills that reach back to the era of swing, blues and stride. Staccato, swinging right hand lines weave in and out of Bryant’s left hand bottom. Bryant would revisit the uplifting Cubano Chant a number of times during his career. Finally, Oscar Pettiford’s Oscalypso ends the Afro-Cuban side on a groovy note. But three tunes in, the pounding percussion sounds of the basic calypso riff might start to get up one’s sleeve. 
Part of an elite jazz family that brought Afro-Cuban music to the jazz realm, including Duke Ellington, Juan Tizol, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Kenny Dorham, the Drum Suite-section is a convincing, spirited affair, and one of the first percussion-oriented jazz album sides. It’s a February 22, 1957 session. Just a while later, Blakey would expand on his percussion fetish on the Blue Note label, releasing Orgy In Rhythm, a date that was recorded in May and October, 1957, as well as Drums Around The Corner and Holiday For Skins in 1958. 
Obviously, despite Blakey’s assesment of his own, ‘American’ style, Blakey’s drumming incorporated some African devices, such as the altering of pitch with the elbow, tangible rim shots, and multiple rolls on the toms: an armoury of effects to stimulate the soloists. Some of these assets, embellishing the signature Blakey style of a propulsive beat and thunderous polyrhythm, are present on the other session of Drum Suite, a date of December 13, 1956. They especially fill Bill Hardman’s fast-paced, swinging tune Just For Marty to the brim. It’s a top-rate session with vigorous blowing by Jackie McLean and a number of jubilant, fluent statements by Bill Hardman, an underestimated player with a delicious, sweet-sour tone. 
Before Blakey gained widespread recognition with the Blue Note album Moanin’ in 1958, it was hard to make head or tail out of the drummer’s recording career, as Blakey recorded albums for a varying string of labels, including Vik, Jubilee, Bethlehem, Atlantic and Columbia. Yet, however disparate Blakey’s catalogue of that period between the early classic Jazz Messenger sides on Blue Note and successful comeback on the famous label in 1958 may be, it was of a continuous high level. The singular Drum Suite album is no exception.
FLOPHOUSE magazine