Saturday, October 31, 2009
Back to Blakey
I got interested in Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers as result of my infatuation with Wayne Shorter. I got interested in Wayne because I saw one of his albums in a Zen Mountain Center catalog. I practice Zen meditation, and Wayne is a Nichiren Buddhist if I am correct. Such is the strange path of a jazz collector.
I have about twelve Messengers albums with Shorter playing his magnificent sax. I am always astonished to note that all twelve were recorded between 1960 and 1964, when Shorter served as the Messengers musical director. That was one very fertile period in the history of jazz.
Blakey was a unique sort of genius. He kept the Messengers within a narrow scope of music, but allowed an amazing number of jazz masters to mature under his guidance. He was also a wizard on the drums. Wayne Shorter was another kind of genius. I identify with him more than any other jazz master because of a set of common interests. Buddhism, science fiction, and the spooky mood, these are the things that attract me to Shorter. But I can't play the horn and I am no brilliant composer. Wayne's melodies are haunting and compelling. I can't imagine life without them.
Today I got Buhaina's Delight. It's named after Blakey's Islamic moniker. I don't know when Shorter found the Buddha way, but there is a lot of American spring mix in this story. Anyway, here is a sample from the disc.
Just look at the lineup: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, and Jymie Merritt on drums, and of course Blakey and Shorter.
Here is another sample from a very popular album. Here, in addition to Blakey and Shorter, Lee Morgan plays trumpet, Bobby Timmons piano, and Merritt again on bass. I have a deep fondness for Timmons, as he wrote 'Moanin', one of my favorite compositions. But Lee Morgan is a priceless hard bop treasure. This one number, I think, documents the greatness of the Messengers. Morgan's intro, and Timmons' soft solo are wonderful. But Morgan's solo, followed by Shorter's, lay out two chambers of the human heart in a way that makes every beat worth the blood it pumps. This, by Zeus, is jazz.