Saturday, November 26, 2005

CD review: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers - Drum Suite

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers - Drum Suite (1957)

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Synonymous with hard bop music for almost four decades and with providing several jazz luminaries with their start in jazz, drummer Art Blakey has more than earned his place in jazz history.

In 1954, Blakey and pianist Horace Silver created the Jazz Messengers,the long running group with a rotating line up of promising talent, many of whom went on to have prodigious solo careers, including Clifford Brown, Freddie Hubbard, Wynton Marsalis, Terance Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, Hank Mobley, Kenny Garrett, and Keith Jarrett.

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Silver left the group a year later, but they had gained such notoriety that they were signed to Columbia Records. The group recorded Hard Bop in 1956 but Blakey chose to follow it up by trying something a bit different. He enlisted percussionists Jo Jones, Specs Wright, Candido Camero, and Sabu Martinez and developed three tracks utilizing African and Cuban influences. Blakey had recorded with Martinez for Blue Note records in 1953. The Drum Suite sessions introduced a new concept and has influenced musical recordings from a variety of genres for decades to come.

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Horace Silver
The opening track, Sacrifice, features some singing in Swahilli and is a sensational rythmic experience, with an actual story behind the chanting. The story is about two people who are about to be sacrificed to crocodiles, apparently an authentic ancient Swahilli ceremony. Cubano Chant swings with a strong groove and catchy "chanting" vocals.

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The other tracks, side two of the vinyl record, were from the 1956 Hard Bop sessions.

The only downside to this album is the dreaded Sony DRM spyware! You can't buy the spyware CD anymore and the unafffected version should be back in stores soon. Drum Suite is Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers trying something new, ironically, near the outset of their career. They have more highly acclaimed recordings than this one, but fans of hard bop jazz will definitely enjoy it.

1. The Sacrifice (Art Blakey - Louis Martiniez)
2. Cubano Chant (Ray Bryant)
3. Oscalypso (Oscar Pettiford)
4. Nica's Tempo (Gigi Gryce)
5. D's Dilemma (Mal Waldron)
6. Just For Marty (Bill Hardman)
*7. Lil 'T (Donald Bryrd)
*8. The New Message (aka Little T) take 1 (Donald Bryrd)
*9. The New Message (aka Little T) take 3 (Donalyd Bryd)

*Bonus tracks not on the original LP.

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