The Complete Blue Note Recordings Of Art Blakey’s 1960 Jazz Messengers
By Scott Yanow
The 1959-64 period was an artistically prosperous time for Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. They recorded one gem after another for the Blue Note label, were in great demand for appearances both in the U.S. and Europe, and their personnel, while changing 100%, was at a very high level. During this time the free jazz and avant-garde movements rose in importance, bossa-nova became popular, and soul jazz (of which Horace Silver and Bobby Timmons were early influences) had a large audience, but Blakey went in his own direction, performing classic hard bop with his young players.
Every Art Blakey recording from this era (and to an extent for the 25 years after that) can be considered essential with a few being more significant than the others. After a European tour that resulted in some live albums (including Bluebird’s Paris 1958 and Fontana’s 1958 – Paris Olympia), Golson left the Messengers to co-found the Jazztet. Hank Mobley returned and took his place by early 1959, appearing on the recently issued Just Coolin’ (Blue Note).
The best Jazz Messengers recording during Mobley’s second period with Blakey is the two-CD set At The Jazz Corner Of The World. Strangely enough Timmons and Morgan did not contribute any songs to this spirited live outing although Mobley brought in three songs. The band does a fine job on “Close Your Eyes,” Monk’s “Justice” and Randy Weston’s “Hi-Fly.” However the tenor’s 1959 stint with Blakey was short and is now almost forgotten, due to his replacement by Wayne Shorter, who Blakey lured away from Maynard Ferguson’s orchestra.
A very original soloist and composer, Shorter was be a major asset to the Jazz Messengers for the next five years. His first studio recording with the band, Africaine, found him introducing “Lester Left Town” (a tribute to Lester Young) and contributing five of the six songs. Unfortunately that album went unissued until 1981 but that was due to the large number of Blakey recordings at the time rather than any problems with the quality.
From March 1960 to May 1961, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers recorded no less than nine albums for the Blue Note label. All were reissued in the limited-edition Mosaic six-CD set. Each session is well worth acquiring either in the Mosaic box or individually. The Morgan-Shorter-Timmons-Merritt-Blakey quintet is featured on The Big Beat, A Night In Tunisia, Meet You At The Jazz Corner Of The World Vols. 1-2, The Freedom Rider, Like Someone In Love, The Witch Doctor, Roots and Herbs, and Pisces.
Just to name a few highpoints: a memorable arrangement on “It’s Only A Paper Moon,” the original version of Bobby Timmons’ soul jazz hit “Dat Dere,” the first released version of “Lester Left Town,” “Like Someone In Love,” outstanding playing by Morgan and Blakey on “A Night In Tunisia,” Shorter’s “Ping Pong,” and Blakey’s unaccompanied drum solo on ‘The Freedom Rider.”
Everything came together during 1960-61 for the Jazz Messengers, making that one of the best periods in the group’s history.
This discography contains only the first issue number of each performance. All selections were
recorded at the Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, unless otherwise noted.
(A) Wayne Shorter (ts), Lee Morgan (tp), Bobby Timmons (p), Jymie Merritt (b), Art Blakey (d).
March 6, 1960
tk.1 It’s Only A Paper Moon (alt) B2-46400
tk.3 It’s Only A Paper Moon BST 84029
tk.7 Dat Dere BST 84029
tk.10 The Chess Players BST 84029
tk.13 Lester Left Town BST 84029
tk.17 Sakeena’s Vision BST 84029
tk.22 Politely BST 84029
(B) same personnel. August 7, 1960
tk.3 When Your Lover Has Gone B2-84049
tk.7 Noise In The Attic BST 84245
tk.9 Sleeping Dancer Sleep On (alt) B2-84245
tk.10 Sleeping Dancer Sleep On BST 84245
tk.11 Sincerely Diana BST 84049
tk.15 Sincerely Diana (alt) B2-84049
tk.17 Yama BST 84049
(C) same personnel. August 14, 1960
tk.31 Kozo’s Waltz BST 84049
tk.34 Giantis BST 84245
tk.42 Johnny’s Blue BST 84245
tk.46 So Tired BST 84049
tk.48 Like Someone In Love BST 84245
tk.54 A Night In Tunisia BST 84049
(D) same personnel. February 12, 1961
tk.8 United (J) GXF 3060
tk.15 Ping Pong (J) GXF 3060
tk.27 Blue Ching (J) GXF 3060
tk.28 Pisces (J) GXF 3060
(E) same personnel. February 18, 1961
tk.2 Look At The Birdie BST 84347
tk.4 Master Mind BST 84347
tk.10 Ping Pong BST 84347
tk.12 Petty Larceny BST 84156
tk.18 Roots And Herbs (1) BST 84347
tk.26 United (1) BST 84347
(1) Walter Davis, Jr. replaces Timmons on piano.
(F) same personnel. March 14, 1961
tk.6 The Witch Doctor (alt) previously unissued
tk.14 Those Who Sit And Wait BST 84258
tk.21 A Little Busy BST 84258
tk.23 Joelle BST 84258
tk.28 Afrique BST 84258
tk.29 Lost And Found BST 84258
tk.30 The Witch Doctor BST 84258
(G) same personnel. May 27, 1961 ; previously unissued
tk.2 The Back Sliders (alt) BST 84347
tk.4. The Back Sliders BST 84156
tk.6 The Freedom Rider (1) BST 84156
tk.7 Tell It Like It Is BST 84156
tk.13 El Toro BST 84156
tk.19 Blue Lace BST 84156
tk.25 Uptight (J) GXF 3060
(1) unaccompanied drum solo.
(H) same personnel, live at Birdland. September 14, 1960
tk.3 The Summit BST 84055
tk.4 High Modes BST 84055
tk.5 The Theme BST 84055
tk.7 What Know BST 84054
tk.8 The Theme BST 84054
tk.9 The Breeze And I BST 84054
tk.10 The Opener BST 84054
tk.11 These Are The Things I Love BST 84055
tk.12 “Round About Midnight BST 84054
tk.15 Night Watch BST 84055
BST 84029 THE BIG BEAT
BST 84049 A NIGHT IN TUNISIA
BST 84054. MEET YOU AT THE JAZZ CORNER
OF THE WORLD vol. 1
BST 84055 MEET YOU AT THE JAZZ CORNER
OF THE WORLD vol. 2
BST 84156 THE FREEDOM RIDER
BST 84245 LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
BST 84258 THE WITCH DOCTOR
BST 84347 ROOTS AND HERBS
GXF 3060 PISCES (Japanese)
B2-46400 THE BIG BEAT
B2-84049 A NIGHT IN TUNISIA
B2-84245 LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
The 1960 edition of the Jazz Messengers was one of Blakey’s finest. Its evolution began in late 1958 when Benny Golson organized a new edition of the band to include himself on tenor and fellow Philadelphians Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt. When Golson left in 1959, Hank Mobley rejoined the band for a few months. By the time Wayne Shorter joined that fall, Timmons had left for Cannonball Adderley’s band and Walter Davis, Jr. was his replacement.
In 1960, Timmons came home and all the elements came together for this extraordinary blend of distinctive soloists/composers.
All of the studio recordings herein are in chronological order. Because the live albums were pieced together with surrounding announcements and appropriate applause, it would damage the flow and the elements of this set if the original album sides were taken apart for the sake of chronology.
All of the alternate takes included were takes that were noted in Alfred Lion’s original session logs as being someone’s alternate choice, be it him, Ike Quebec, Blakey or the tune’s composer.
Although all of the sessions in this collection were recorded by the extraordinary Rudy Van Gelder, there are sonic problems on two sessions.
The drums were recorded very ‘hot’ on the March 14, 1961 session and sound at times on the threshold of distortion. On the live Birdland date, there is a vibrating, fluttering distortion that takes place intermittently in the horns and sometimes the entire ensemble.
These problems exist on the original master tapes. They have been corrected as much as possible, but are still aurally present.