Art Blakey - The Jazz Messengers (Columbia, 1956)
This group was setting the Ur-text for hard bop in the mid-50's. As a response to the over-virtuosity of bebop and the perceived non-swing of west cost jazz, hard bop brought jazz back to it’s bluesy swinging roots. This is a record of the original Jazz Messengers, an all star band made up of Donald Byrd on trumpet, Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone, Horace Silver on piano, Doug Watkins on bass and Blakey on drums.
"Nica’s Dream" has some great percussive piano from Silver prodded from the rear by Blakey before the horns return to state the state the theme and conclude the song. "It’s You Or No One Else" is propelled along in a swift fashion by a loping bass groove - classic hard bop playing which would become a template for generations of musicians to come. "Ecaroh" has Donald Byrd leading a string of solos from the other musicians over Blakey’s sturdy beat. "Carol’s Interlude" features an upbeat piano solo followed by a storming and confident tenor solo from Mobley. Blakey steps out from his support role to throw a couple of Zeus like thunderbolt drum rolls. He also steps forward on "Hank’s Symphony" to take a lengthy and percussive drum solo.
It’s hard to do much better then this one if you are a fan of hard bop. I have this as a vinyl reissue, so if you go for the compact disc version, you’ll get some alternate tracks and new liner notes and photographs. However you get it, if you’re a fan of hard bop this is a must buy.
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