Art Blakey - A Message To You

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Twenty years ago Art Blakey shuffled off this mortal coil.

As the drummer who constructed the vast edifice of hard bop and maintained its monumental standards with his band the Jazz Messengers right to the day he died, Blakey was also the ultimate bandleader-as-talent scout, playing with the established greats such as Thelonious Monk on the one hand, while, on the other, preparing the way for other greats such as Wayne Shorter and much later Terence Blanchard and Wynton Marsalis to emerge.

A seeker as well as a sender of a powerful musical message, Blakey frequently played at Ronnie Scott’s where he became an inspiration for new players in the UK such as the young Courtney Pine to find their own particular calling. Roy Carr got to know Blakey well. In this extraordinarily candid unpublished interview kept under wraps until now, Carr unearths new aspects of Blakey’s personality hitherto known only to the inner Blakey circle and close followers of his career. Blakey opens up about religion, race, the reasons behind his remarkable work ethic, and above all his pursuit of the spirit within.  

I first encountered Art Blakey, in Paris on 21 December 1958, when The Jazz Messengers made a triumphant appearance at Club St. Germain Des Prés (later released on three LPs). The line-up was Lee Morgan, Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt.

It would be another three years before I actually got to know Art Blakey. This was on 6 May 1961 when the Messengers and the Thelonious Monk Quartet played a double header at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall as part of a UK tour.

This is an extract from Jazzwise Issue #148 – to read the full article click here to subscribe and receive a FREE CD...

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