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Art Blakey Jazz Messengers Caravan Review

Album. Released 2007.  

BBC Review

This is the kind of reissue that gives jazz a good name.

Nick Reynolds 2007

Just about every jazz musician of note learned his trade in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. From the nineteen fifties onwards for thirty years the group was an evolving jazz workshop. The Messengers was where young bucks sharpened their improvising and composing skills and became major stars, under Blakey’s benevolent eye and with the support of his complete mastery of the art of percussion.

This session, from 1962, features a mouth-watering array of talent including Wayne Shorter, Reggie Workman, and Freddie Hubbard. It’s a slick, fluid, professional set of hard bop at its finest.

Blakey kicks off proceedings with a short, sharp drum feature before a confident, urgent version of the standard “Caravan”. Hubbard’s trumpet attacks the first solo and we’re off into a fluent set of improvisations from each player that are tight, exciting and bristle with expertise.

Throughout Blakey pushes the beat forwards with a lightness of touch, never overwhelming the others but challenging them enough to keep their creativity high. His interchange with pianist Cedar Walton on Shorter’s composition “This Is For Albert” is one of the many highlights.

As you’d expect from any set at this time, there are two ballads: “In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning” and a lovely “Skylark”. These compliment original compositions that offer the kind of technical challenge musicians of this calibre relish. Shorter’s “Sweet n' Sour” is breezy and swinging, with Hubbard particularly compelling. Hubbard’s own “Thermo” keeps everyone on their toes with its tricky, complex theme.

Orrin Keepnews is a veteran jazz producer who oversaw the original session. Now in his eighties, Orrin is reissuing some of the best music he produced. There are detailed liner notes, excellent sound quality, extra tracks and a general air of care, love and respect. This is the kind of reissue that gives jazz a good name.

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