'Taking A Chance On Love', by Rita Reys And The Jazz Messengers

The Dutch Rita Reys (1924), since 1960 officially ‘Europe’s First Lady Of Jazz’, has been a professional performer for more than six decades. Even today, this jazz diva still knows how to charm audiences with her famously unique timing, legendary swing and fabulous performance.

Rita Reys - The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys

As Rita became a big success in the Netherlands in the 40’s and 50’s, America beckoned. Legendary record producer George Avakian (Columbia), who had heard her sing at the ‘Sheherazade Club' in Amsterdam, invited her to come to the States. She gladly accepted his invitation and went there in 1956. She had the opportunity to record an album in New York with one of the most famous jazz bands of all times: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, the only time the Jazz Messengers played behind a vocalist. 'The Cool Voice Of Rita Reys' features Horace Silver, Hank Mobley and Donald Byrd. Because they had such a ball working with Rita, these famous musicians did a number of shows with her at the renowned Village Vanguard in New York’s Greenwich Village.

Rita Reys and Art Blakey 
Rita Reys - Vocals
Hank Mobley - Tenor Saxophone
Donald Byrd - Trumpet
Horace Silver - Piano
Doug Watkins - Bass
Art Blakey - Drums 

Currently reading: Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen Of Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers, by Alan Goldsher.
Alan Goldsher, a bassist who has recorded with Janet Jackson, Digable Planets, Cypress Hill and Naughty By Nature, a writer of various articles and novels and a fellow Tumblr member, wrote this great book on the multitude of gifted artists who populated the many editions of the Jazz Messengers through the years. 
Blakey was not only a distinguished, inventive and powerful drummer, but along with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, he was one of jazz’s foremost talent scouts. The musicians who flowed seamlessly in and out of this constantly evolving collective during its 36-year run (about 120 of them) were among the most important artists of any era. Though their respective innovations were vital to the evolution of bebop and hard bop, the recorded work of the Messengers sidemen has never been properly analyzed. In addition to dissecting the sidemen’s most consequential work with Blakey’s band, Alan Goldsher offers up engaging profiles of a great deal of Messenger members.
I started reading this book yesterday, so expect some great Messengers music coming your way in the near future.

Currently reading: Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen Of Art Blakey And The Jazz Messengers, by Alan Goldsher.

Alan Goldsher, a bassist who has recorded with Janet Jackson, Digable Planets, Cypress Hill and Naughty By Nature, a writer of various articles and novels and a fellow Tumblr member, wrote this great book on the multitude of gifted artists who populated the many editions of the Jazz Messengers through the years. 

Blakey was not only a distinguished, inventive and powerful drummer, but along with Duke Ellington and Miles Davis, he was one of jazz’s foremost talent scouts. The musicians who flowed seamlessly in and out of this constantly evolving collective during its 36-year run (about 120 of them) were among the most important artists of any era. Though their respective innovations were vital to the evolution of bebop and hard bop, the recorded work of the Messengers sidemen has never been properly analyzed. In addition to dissecting the sidemen’s most consequential work with Blakey’s band, Alan Goldsher offers up engaging profiles of a great deal of Messenger members.

I started reading this book yesterday, so expect some great Messengers music coming your way in the near future.

'Dance Of The Infidels', by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Feat. Bud Powell

Yesterday I wrote about Shorter’s debut with the Messengers on his first gig abroad, in Paris on November 15th 1959. After that concert, they continued on a swing through Europe, and came full circle with a closing gig back at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on December 18th. For this final performance, promoters planned to feature a number of expatriate musicians in concert with the Messengers, including Bud Powell, who’d set up residence on the Left Bank the previous May.

Michelle Mercer writes: “…Paudras (Powell’s patron and friend in Paris, often mentioned on this blog) invited Bud to the Messengers show that night, unaware that his friend was actually already on the bill. In the middle of the show, Walt Davis, the Messengers’ pianist, stepped up to the mike and asked Bud to come on stage. Bud wasn’t exactly eager to play. He sank down into his chair and tried in vain to use his trademark beret and overcoat for camouflage, but his fans picked him out right away. The audience caught Bud on a good night. With concentration, he shunned inspiration and played straight, giving a crowd pleasing performance…”

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Paris Jam Session

"…After the concert, Shorter went to his hotel room. He had been writing for a couple of hours when he heard a knock on the door at around 3 a.m. There was Bud. He walked into the room, sat in a chair, and looked over at Wayne’s horn, which was out of its case on his bed. "Play me something", he said, in his mild child’s voice. Wayne hesitated. He didn’t know what to play. When he picked up his horn, he reflexively set in on one of the tunes they’d covered earlier that night, ‘Dance Of The Infidels’. After he played, Bud thanked him, stood up, and walked to the door. He turned around and stared. “Are you all right?” Wayne asked. “Uh-huh, it’s all right”, Bud mumbled in response…”.

"…Years later, Wayne listened repeatedly to the show’s live recording, ‘Paris Jam Session’. “Maybe he must have heard something with me that he felt in his inner being?…”

What might Bud Powell have heard in Wayne that night in 1959? 

"…Bud set out boldly on ‘Dance Of The Infidels' with an inventive solo. He walked the tightrope for a few bars then fell back on repetition like a net. When Wayne took the lead solo, Bud must have noticed that Wayne never repeated himself, not a single riff. For Wayne, repetition was stagnation. There was urgency in Shorter's playing that night, an inner logic to his solos, but a mercurial aspect as well. Wayne blew back at Blakey's hi-hat jabs like they were in the boxing ring. The seeds of Wayne's style and his initiation as a composer were there. Maybe Bud heard that, Wayne pushing toward the future with music that could only move forward…”

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Barney Wilen - Alto Saxophone (guest appearance)
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Bud Powell - Piano (guest appearance)
Jymie Merritt - Bass
Art Blakey - Drums 


'Close Your Eyes', by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers

Michelle Mercer writes in her Wayne Shorter biography ‘Footprints’, page 74/75:
'…On November 14th, 1959, just four days after Wayne's first recording session with the Messengers, the band went to Paris. It was Wayne's first European tour, and his first trip abroad. The Messengers flew over in a Stratocruiser, occupying the plane's coctail lounge in the bubble space above the main cabin. The ten hour flight flew by for the band as they drank liberal amounts of cognac and work out some tunes…
It was a good time to be a Jazz Messenger in Paris. A year before, the group had a triumphal premiere at the Olympia theater, popularizing the group’s soulful brand of hard bop. Though the French maintained a preference for decades-old Lester Young-style balladry (a style near their native chanson), bop had become the default soundtrack for younger Parisians…”

In this rare video we see Wayne Shorter making his debut with the Messengers, on their opening gig at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées on November 15th, 1959.

Lee Morgan - Trumpet
Wayne Shorter - Tenor Saxophone
Jymie Merritt - Bass
Walter Davis - Piano
Art Blakey - Drums 

Moanin’ Monday!

Rare footage of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, live in Tokyo, 1961.
We see Bobby Timmons on piano, Jimmy Merrit on bass, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone and of course Art Blakey on drums.

It’s rare to see Lee Morgan on film (he was 23 at the time), as he was seldom captured by movie or TV cameras during his short life (he was regrettably killed in 1972, at the early age of 33. I will talk about his death in a later post.). It is also interesting to see a young Wayne Shorter in his pre-Miles stage and the talented pianist Bobby Timmons, whose celebrated composition ‘Moanin’ is performed here.

They’re all accompanied by the Japanese ‘Sharps And Flats Big Band’. 

Saturday Night Live: ‘Hank’s Symphony’, by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers 

Or, as Blakey announces: "Take your shoes off, folks, and make yourself comfortable. We’re about to have a little cookin’ session for Blue Note!"

This is how I like my jazz. 
Creaking, shrieking, clanging, clinking, rattling, jangling, bit out of tune, bit out of time, in a hot, steamy and smoky nightclub on a Wednesday, November 23rd, 1955.

I just love the imperfectness.

"Hank’s Symphony" is an imaginative Mobley tune, leading through several contrasting sections, with the spotlight on some spectacular drum solos. It is frankly a showpiece for Blakey, who has, however, many more things to do in it than a drummer usually does in a solo number.

Art Blakey - Drums
Horace Silver - Piano
Kenny Dorham - Trumpet
Hank Mobley - Tenor Saxophone
Doug Watkins - Bass