Selection: “Along Came Manon”
Lee Morgan, trumpet; Benny Golson, tenor sax; Jimmy Merritt, bass; Bobby Timmons, piano; Art Blakey, Kenny Clarke, drums; Gana M’Bow (congas), recorded by Raymond Treillet December 1958
When Art Blakey’s Messengers descended on Paris in December 1958, two recording dates were set – the prestigious Olympia concert hall, and the more funky Club St Germain. It was Blakey’s strongest line up ever, with Lee Morgan (t), Bennie Golson (ts), Bobby Timmons (p) Jimmie Merrit (b) and a near identical playlist, including hits Moanin’ and Night in Tunisia.
The closest to these recordings on-line is from the Belgian leg of The Jazz Messengers European tour. Its from Volume Two, which is hard to find because its the highlight of the concert: “Moanin’ “. Blakey beaming doing what he loves best, Lee Morgan’s impeccably swinging solo, matched only by Benny Golson picking up at the handover, and soaring to new heights. Unmissable.
The Olympia Concert session was widely released, but the Club St Germain set was released only in Franc, by RCA, in mono, in three volumes (Black label, 1959). With no US release, and overall pressing volume small, copies are rare, and in decent condition, rarer still.
Blakey’s reappearance in France 1961 with young French tenor saxophonist Barney Wilen on the classic “Paris Jam Session” sparked a second pressing of “Club St Germain”, on yellow labels in 1962. Some years later Stereo pressings were added. The only other release of the full club set is on CD.
Something you need to know about the French and vinyl, if you didn’t already know. A guy I got talking to in a record store told me they used to have a sign on the wall behind the counter about record grading. It went: Mint, Excellent, VG+, VG, Good, Fair, Poor, and French. I saw a copy of Vol3 in France a while back: it looked like a skating rink. As different branches of French Existentialism, Jazz, and taking care of records were entirely incompatible.
Imagine my delight when a copy of the missing Volume 3 appeared in a North London store, in near mint condition. (Mint apart from the rear jacket, which contains a huge stamp of the owners name MICHAEL GLUCKMAN six inches wide. Bet he was fun at parties. (Update – a second pressing from the early Sixties, hat tip Rudolf)
Each volume has a different banner colour on the jacket: Blue, White and Red, so the three taken together make up – the French Flag! Just so you know.
The 1959 Black label pressing is superb, utterly lifelike presence in the Club St Germain, with you in the front row, and Lee Morgan three feet from you. Really something worth waiting for