Art Blakey Roots and Herbs (1961) Lib/UA 1st

Track Selection: The (STEREO) Back Sliders  (rip updated)

Lead track Ping Pong previously posted under the Japanese release Pisces, so it is an alternative track selection, The Back Sliders.


Lee Morgan (tp) Wayne Shorter (ts) Bobby Timmons or Walter Davis Jr (p) Jymie Merritt (b) Art Blakey (d) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, February 18 and May 27, 1961

Recorded in 1961, a few weeks after the return of  Blakey and the Messengers from  touring Europe and Japan, takes from these sessions were released selectively in Japan only (Pisces), one title added  to BN 4156 Freedom Rider then left forgotten in the Blue Note archives, victim of Alfred Lion’s caution about not overloading the market with particularly productive artists. Rediscovered and released on vinyl in 1970 on the new Blue Note black and blue Liberty/UA West Coast label.


Featuring one of the Messengers strongest line ups – Morgan, Shorter, and Timmons –  the time is just right, 1961,  bop-around the clock, and its a fiery outing from Shorter and Morgan. After you have been toying with a plate of nouvelle cuisine, “poncy stuff” as Mrs LJC calls it, or enduring four sides of experimental simultaneous spontaneous improvisation, “ear-ache” as I call it,  it is nice to tuck into a large helping of solid no-nonsense bop. This swings, lots.

Vinyl: Blue Note BST 84347, 1st pressing, VAN GELDER master, 140 gm

A Liberty/UA pressing in the black and blue livery which says, basically, “we can do whatever we like here in L.A. Like take a classic brand and trash it”  Fortunately the West Coast black and blues, issued between 1970-3, are generally very good pressings and this is no exception – wide dynamic range with a good sense of musicians  in-the-room presence (as opposed to next door, under a pile of blankets, the house style which United Artists later went on to adopt) It is also fortunate as this is first and, I think, only pressing, so it is not like there is an alternative.

The brief  liner notes contain a nice anecdote about Blakey, which you can read for yourself by clicking to full screen, of course unless you are ahead of the curve surfing on a smart phone.

Collector’s Corner

Source: West London record store

Going to pick up this record was the occasion I was unexpectedly offered a six-eye copy of Kind of Blue which had arrived that morning at the shop: a case of being in the right place at the right time, but for entirely the wrong reason.

I think it was John Lennon who said  Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.  Shame you can’t plan for serendipity, but then serendipity is the brother of calamity, its evil twin. You can’t have one without the other. Calamity makes an unexpected appearance from time to time too, and both of them turn up to prevent life becoming too predictable.

12 thoughts on “Art Blakey Roots and Herbs (1961) Lib/UA 1st

  1. I’m particularly grateful for when you post records like these because it can be hard to keep on top of all the material that was recorded in the 50s/early 60s and then didn’t see the light of day until later. You might pass up something tasty just because the original release date isn’t too appealing. I had this happen last month with a Jimmy Smith LP – Softly as a Summer Breeze. It was put out in 1965, as it has a catalog number pretty close to the sale of the label to Liberty, but the sessions are actually from 1958, most the material featuring a crack trio with Kenny Burrell and Philly Joe Jones. Considering Smith’s glut of material I almost passed it up even at a low price, but now it lives happily next to my copy of The Sermon. Nifty little version of Hackensack on that LP, by the way.

    • Ah The Sermon, excellent! – There are a few Jimmys where the line-up is so mouthwatering they are a must have, especially the earlier recordings. Unfortunately there are more than a few later titles that come across as purely “CF”‘s – contractual fulfillments. It always pays to read the label.

      • I should have mentioned that my LPs are shelved by year of recording, hence why the two LPs live together. It might be more interesting for me to compare Softly… to LPs to other LPs that were actually recorded in its year of release.

        • That’s good to know – Jimmy’s sweet spot was small, but very sweet indeed, just hard to find with the zillions of other records, and his early stuff which I frankly don’t enjoy. But Midnight Special, Back At The Chicken Shack, The Sermon, and House Party are all very solid Blue Note offerings. Add Softly to that list, I suppose.

  2. what a frustrating life, that of a jazz collector. I thought to have everything of this great group, but, alas, no. So, up in EBay these days for a repair job. Thanks for pointing out this one to the community.

  3. Indeed a magnificent release with three alternate takes on the CD reissue. And although this pressing is in stereo, the audio clip again is mono with the same signal in both channels…

    Just to make sure that it is not a problem of my own computer, I returned to your older post of Thelonious Monk ‘Criss Cross’ mono vs. stereo and there the audio clips indeed are in mono and stereo.

    Maybe your turntable began a life of its own, sending out magic signs telling you that it only wants to be used for mono records from now on 😛

    • Totally mystefied what has happened to change stereo to mono. There are no controls anywhere to do this, I have changed the TT, so its in the PC department, the system sound devices test produce a left and right channel OK, it must be the ripping software, decided it prefers mono. I see a few lost hours fiddling with everything!

      Looks like the microphone USB codec used by the ripping software unilaterally switched itself from two channels to one. I suspect the installation of a webcam overwrote the current settings or reset the default to one. Wasn’t me guv, I didn’t know it was possible. Fresh rips uploaded for Wahoo and Blues and Roots. Last few posts before that were mostly mono anyway, which is why I didn’t pick up on it. Anyway, business as usual.

      • Aha! You found the culprit! Finally we hear the goodness in all its stereo glory 🙂 Thanks, I almost feel like a spoiled brat 😀

  4. Hi LJC,

    first of all really loving the blog. Some great choices over the past few weeks and Wahoo and Idle Moments are especial favourites of mine.

    Roots and Herbs, came out on a blue & white Liberty label as well as the blue black UA. I’m a little confused by the blue blacks because they seemed to be released simultaneously with traditional Blue Note label issues of the same titles. Can anyone shine some light on this?

    • I assumed Liberty Records was in the process of being absorbed into United Artists around 1970 when this came out. From what I have seen, the New York end carried on Division of Liberty through to Division of United Artists (classic Blue/White labels), while the West Coast arm was set up as Liberty/UA under local management, with local pressing and printing

      By 1973 both disapppeared under the corporate United Artists Music and Records Group on the All Blue/ Black Note.

      I’d be glad too if anyone has a better handle on the history.I’m just connecting the dots.

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