Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Music Matters: Art Blakey and Joe Henderson

 Music Matters is a small company that licenses classic jazz recordings from the Blue Note label and releases them as high quality vinyl LP's. They began as an audiophile label releasing limited edition albums to be played at 45rpm - presumably the wider and thicker groove allowed for the better processing of data, but they have recently begum releasing standard 331/3 vinyl LP's at a more reasonable price. These two LP's are from that series and are quite beautiful with a glossy finish to the new gate-fold LP featuring photos from the session and the original liner notes.

Art Blakey - Moanin' (Blue Note, 1958) This is one of the most well known and best albums of drummer and band leader Art Blakey's career. He always had an eye for great young players and composers, and that is on display here. The band is Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jamie Merritt on bass. This group was together for a very short time, but with some of the best hard bop composers on board, they made excellent music. Bobby Timmons wrote the title song that begins this album starting with an unforgettable section of piano and horns, before the whole group kicks in for an excellent round of solos. Benny Golson is a suburb jazz composer, and both "Blues March" and "Along Come Betty" are prime examples of hard-bop and mainstream jazz in general. On "Blues March" the rest of the band falls in behind Blakey's lead into a stuttering melody, before falling out for solos and ensemble sections. "Along Came Betty" is a soulful piece that really shows the deep down funkiness that this band could achieve.

Joe Henderson - Page One (Blue Note, 1963) Tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson's debut album as a leader shows a very confident musician, who is supported by a crack band playing wonderful compositions. What more could you want? Trumpeter Kenny Dorham is critical to this album, not only as an instrumentalist, but as something of a mentor as referenced in his wry liner note essay. McCoy Tyner on piano, Butch Warren on bass and Pete LaRocca on drums round out the group. This album was recorded near the height of the bossa-nova craze, and the band makes good use of the form on the opening track "Blue Bossa" by Kenny Dorham, and Henderson's own standard-to-be "Recorda Me." They are both excellent, the music is open and breezy without being derivative and LaRocca makes very good use of rhythm and time. The rest of the album is excellent hard bop. "Out of the Night" is another distinctive Henderson original, you can really hear him developing his own sound, one that would make many excellent recordings for Blue Note in the years to come. "La Mesha" is the album's ballad and makes fine use of the form and allows the musicians to improvise widely at a slower tempo.

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