Friday, August 05, 2022

Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (Atlantic Records, 1958, 2022)

This is a great album from the 1950's which is given a respectful re-issue treatment in both analog and digital format. Drummer Art Blakey and pianist and composer Thelonious Monk were well acquainted with each other at this point, having played together in many formations over the past ten years. This album finds Monk joining Blakey's late 1950's Jazz Messengers unit, consisting of Bill Hardman on trumpet, Johnny Griffin on tenor saxophone and Spanky DeBrest on bass. They play a nearly all Monk program, and the pianist fits into the situation hand in glove, especially since he had just recorded some cracking live music with Griffin the recently. The tenor saxophonist plays just as vividly here as he did then, reveling in the idiosyncratic nature of Monk's compositions and approach to improvisation, blowing lustily as Monk powers them through a percussive joyous version of "In Walked Bud" dedicated to the great pianist Bud Powell. The whole band is just right on one of the most memorable Monk compositions, "Blue Monk," giving him plenty of room to express himself while Blakey grandly swings the band. "Rhythm-a-Ning" is another highlight of the session, featuring Monk's stellar angular theme and his unique manner of comping and soloing. Blakey's massive rolls and malleable rhythmic sensibility, along with DeBrest's anchoring bass are perfect foundation for brass and reed playing that completes the scene. This release is expanded to a double LP or CD set, with the first disc holding the original album, and the following one containing outtakes, and alternate versions of song, some of which are  previously released. All the but one track on disc two of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk is previously unreleased. More important than the outtakes, however, is the remastering of the original discs. The earlier Atlantic records CD has a muddy and constricted sound, whereas, this re-issue (Amazon Music ultra HD streaming, Schiit DAC and amp) is spacious and colorful, and it is a revelation. From what I have read and watched on YouTube, people seem happy with the vinyl version as well. Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk -

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