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Reviewers: Don Mather, Marc Bridle, Ian Lace, Peter Woolf, Gerald Fenech

Jazz Legends - Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
BBC J 7003 - 2
 Amazon UK 

Recorded live at the Ronnie Scott Club, London. 1985.

Two of a kind.
Come rain or come shine.
Blue Minor.
I love you.
Interview with Art Blakey.

Art Blakey - Drums.
Terence Blanchard - Trumpet & Flugelhorn.
Lonnie Plexico - Bass.
Mulgrew Miller - Piano.
Jean Toussaint - Tenor.
Donald Harrison - Alto & Soprano.

In the case of Art Blakey, the name "jazz legend" is wholly appropriate. Born in 1919, Blakey served his musical apprenticeship in the bands of Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie, his reputation as a drummer grew to the point where he was the first choice of the majority of front line players in the band, when they were working with smaller groups.

The Jazz Messengers were formed in 1955, the original band was a co-operative which included pianist/composer Horace Silver. The Jazz Messengers continued to be an important feature of the world wide jazz scene, until Art's death in 1990. Thirty five years is a long time to run any band, particularly a be-bop band!

Very many famous names have been in the band during it's thirty-five years of existence, Lee Morgan, Benny Golsen, Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Johnny Griffin, Wayne Shorter, Wynton Marsalis, Brandford Marsalis, to name just a few. When one considers the diversity of this array of talent, it is amazing that Blakey had the strength of personality as a leader to put the stamp of The Jazz Messengers on all of them. The band also served as a launch pad for these jazz greats, many were unknown before they joined Blakey.

Each of the different line ups had a musical creator in it's midst, in the original band it was Horace Silver, in the band on this record it is Terry Blanchard, who has gone on to running his own band and also writes film music. Terry rates high on my list of favourite Trumpet players. One of his front line partners is Donald Harrison, most Blanchard records include him, they are obviously sole brothers, they complement each other's playing. The other front line man is Jean Toussaint, who hails from St Thomas in the Virgin Islands, but like Harrison, was trained at the Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA. Pianist Mulgrew Miller served his time in the Mercer Ellington Orchestra and with singer Betty Carter. Bass player Lonnie Plexico worked with Sonny Stitt, Dexter Gordon, Hank Jones and the Marsalis Brothers band, which the three of them formed when they left The Jazz Messengers. Finally there is Art Blakey himself, one of the most influential jazz drummers, a hard task master who wanted his musicians to give 150% every night, after all he always did!

The music doesn't get much better than it is on this album, the choice of programme is good and the soloists have room to stretch out and create. It is easy to understand why the group was in demand for so long, when you listen to the music.

"Two of a kind", is a Blanchard original, it features everyone in the band and is the ideal opening number. "Come rain or come shine", a feature for the rhythm section.

"Blue Minor", a Toussaint original is back to the full band, this time Harrison is on Soprano. "I love you", the great Cole Porter song features Toussaint with the rhythm section, a minor criticism here, this track seems a bit stretched out. "Controversy", a Donald Harrison composition, again features the whole band.

Congratulations to the BBC for getting this wonderful music out of the archives. It represents 75.45 minutes of pure enjoyment.

This is a must for serious collectors.


Don Mather

Don Mather is a Bandleader and Saxophone player based in Coventry, UK


Don Mather

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