Jazz CD Reviews
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – The Sesjun Radio Shows (2 CDs) – 1978, 1980, 1983 – CD 1: 67:35 / CD 2: 67:36 – Out of the Blue/ T2
Published on April 24, 2011
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – The Sesjun Radio Shows (2 CDs) – 1978, 1980, 1983 – CD 1: 67:35 / CD 2: 67:36 – Out of the Blue/ T2 PRCD2010171 [Distr. by Naxos] ***½:
(Artists: 1978: David Schnitter, tenor sax; Valery Ponamarev, trumpet; Bobby Watson, alto sax; James Williams, piano; Dennis Irwin, bass; Art Blakey, drums
1980: Billy Pierce, tenor sax; Valery Ponamarev, trumpet; Bobby Watson, alto sax; James Williams, piano; Charles Fambrough, bass; Art Blakey, drums
1983: Jean Toussaint, tenor and soprano sax; Terence Blanchard, trumpet; Donald Harrison, alto sax; Johnny O’Neal, piano; Charles Fambrough, bass; Art Blakey, drums)
Art Blakey was arguably the greatest leader of a continuously running hard bop contingent. His roster of musicians as sidemen are beyond compare as he provided on-the-job training for names way too numerous to list from the 1950s all the way to just before his death in 1990. Everyone that loves hard bop knows the names of Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton, Wayne Shorter, Jackie McLean, etc. They all were schooled in the Art Blakey method of professionalism, swing, and composure well enough to make major names for themselves when they left the Blakey nest.
Not enough exposure and mention has been made of Blakey musicians of the late 70s and the entire 80s. Take a gander at the list above of Blakey’s band members and you can count easily how many of them later led groups of their own, becoming household names – Bobby Watson, Terence Blanchard, James Williams, Donald Harrison just at the tip of the iceberg, not mentioning Wynton Marsalis.
Some of the Sesjun Dutch radio broadcasts of the 1970s and 1980s of Blakey’s Jazz Messengers have been lost. Art recorded six times for TROS Sesjun in The Netherlands. However with the advent of DAT tape, it allowed the station to store an entire years worth of recordings in a single box. Therefore, some of Blakey’s European concerts have been saved. They have been edited and remastered for CD and have been issued by Out of the Blue/ T2, manufactured in Holland. They serve as a testament to Blakey’s tutoring of many of today’s most well known jazz leaders.
On the second CD set we find Valery Ponamarev playing on three of the four broadcasts as does Bobby Watson, who served as the de facto assistant to Blakey in arranging and composing. Blakey’s 1983 touring group had Terence Blanchard, who today should take pride as continuing the Blakey tradition by employing young talented newcomers, and letting them mature and shine by sharing their compositions in the Blanchard repertoire.
The Sesjun sessions have a mix of the tried and true – “Blues March, “Moanin’”, “Along Came Betty”, “Free for All” – all Blakey standards during the Benny Golson and Wayne Shorter Messenger bands, combined with tracks by band members Bobby Watson, James Williams, and Charles Fambrough.
What stands out in listening to this later period of Messengers is that they are almost comparable to the earlier crack 50s and 60s grouping that featured more famous alumni. Valery Ponamarev never has received his due as a powerful swinging trumpeter and Bobby Watson continues to this day both teaching and incubating new talent himself. His “Time Will Tell” and “ETA” hold their own with more well known Blakey standards. Jazz was a much bigger market in the 50s and 60s, and though Blakey continued to blaze a trail, his 70s and 80s material and groupings do not get the attention due to jazz taking a back seat to rock as mainstream listening for the younger generations.
The label has done a fine job remastering this material. The horns are crisp, bass is woody and upfront, and Blakey’s drums get the attention that they deserve. As both historical recordings and a testament to Art Blakey’s leadership and mentoring, the Sesjun sessions make a fine addition to any fan of Mr. Arthur Blakey, AKA: Abdullah Ibn Buhaina.
CD 1: Time Will Tell, E.T.A., My One and Only Love, Dr. J., Evaline, Along Came Betty, Stairway to the Stars, Free for All
CD 2: Blues March, 1977 A.D., Little Man, Polka Dots and Moonbeams, Moanin, The Theme
— Jeff Krow