Record Of The Week # 5

February 7, 2017

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’

In early October I went into Leeds for a morning interview. I parked up with time to spare and found myself in a very empty Jumbo Records. One of the original record stores that seems to now have an assured future given the new found popularity in vinyl. They were playing some jazz – hard bop. I like a lot of modern jazz but some of it is too sophisticated for me and I seldom feel much of it is something you can listen to unless you’re completely in the mood.

I was.

As I entered Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers were climbing into the title track ‘Moanin’. The piano was tinkling the signature. Behind was a tight band playing a melody weaving together their various solos. Art Blakey was on drums – the band leader: he had a career of putting together bands of young talent. This was no exception.

Art had an illustrious career in several bands throughout the 1940’s, 50’s & 60’s. Along the way he converted to Islam and managed to fit in four marriages. Busy boy.

In the line up then Benny Golson is on tenor sax but he also writes most of the compositions and keeps his boss happy with ‘The Drum Thunder Suite’ where Art gets to feature, not by way of tedious solos but various flourishes of different styles and syncopations.

Lee Morgan with a clear and mellifluous tone handles the trumpet. He was only 20 years old when this was recorded in 1958. Sadly he never made it past 33 years old as his then common law wife shot him at a jazz club in New York. Due to heavy snowfall, the ambulance was late in getting to the club and he bled to death before he got to hospital – you can see why Hollywood (La La Land) likes 1950’s jazz: it has a story to tell.

Keys are in the capable hands of another youngster, the 22 year old, Bobby Timmons. His style is sparse but he is the man who gets the chorus but that’s when he’s not soaring along with his own solos. It goes without saying that Bobby succumbed to drug and alcohol addiction before he reached his 39th birthday. 

This album never gets discordant, maintains a melody and bears endless repetition. It may be a plce to start if you are tempted by this era of jazz.

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