The Jazz Messengers (1956) Columbia Six-Eye

CL897-The-Jazz-Messengers-front-1600Track Selection : Infra-Rae (Mobley)


Donald Byrd (t) Hank Mobley (ts) Horace Silver (p) Doug Watkins (b) Art Blakey (d) NYC, April 5, 1956.

Messengers Chronology (selected): Ritual (1957); Art Blakey Big Band (with Coltrane! 1957); Au Club St Germain, Paris (Vol 3 1958); Meet You at the Jazz Corner (Vol 1 1960);  Meet You at the Jazz Corner Vol.2 (1960); Night in Tunisia (1960); Roots n Herbs (1961); Freedom Rider (1961); Alamode (1961); Pisces (1961); Buhaina’s Delight (1961); Mosaic (1961); Indestructible (1964);

“The Jazz Messengers”, not “Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers”, these names are confusing, what gives, LJC?

A “collective” including Horace Silver, Lou Donaldson, Clifford Brown and Art Blakey had been playing together since 1954. The changing line up, as it was in 1956, recorded this album, called simply The Jazz Messengers, for Columbia. All clear so far?

Shortly after the recording Horace Silver left the band, taking Mobley, Byrd and Watkins with him to form a new quintet with other drummers – no loyalty in this business. A completely reconstructed band bringing in Jackie Mclean became known as “Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers” from there on, with Art Blakey as sole leader, the Messengers continued to evolve over the decades with Art Blakey at the helm.

The Art Blakey Bop Finishing School


A great believer in the “one graphic is worth a thousand words”, something I used to do professionally, so with a little artistic license, The Changing Face of The Jazz Messengers – the Messenger’s recording line-ups according to their recording session dates, grouped roughly into half-years.  The interesting thing about working through the detail from the bottom up is it corrected a number of “erroneous impressions”  I had gathered, due to some of the prolific output of Blakey’s Messengers being released out of sync with their recording dates, and the uneven flow of the number of titles. It all gets a bit of a jumble, so I now have a much clearer understanding. So that’s me sorted.

From late 1964, the line up of the Messengers changed  almost completely with every recording, even including Keith Jarrett on piano, and Chuck Mangione on trumpet among the intake of artists. Jazz had moved on, and of necessity The Jazz Messengers moved with it.

Every time you are faced with a Blakey/ Messengers album and you ask yourself: “I have lots of Blakey albums, do I really need another? the answer to the question  is yes,  look in the liner notes to see who is in the Messengers, then buy it, you won’t be disappointed.


1956-digitalredThis is an “early” recording of the Messengers, little different to the classic recordings on Lexington labels by Blue Note. You can’t fault the line up, and the music rocks, as you would expect.

Vinyl:  US Columbia CL 897 Six-Eye, original pressing, mono

You get Columbia’s engineering talent, recorded at Columbia’s legendary NY recording Studio, not van Gelder, Hackensack and Plastylite. An interesting opportunity to sample the difference made by the backroom hero’s of sound recording, mastering and pressing. Columbia Studios, 207 East 30th Street, New York, considered by some to be the greatest recording studio in history, where Kind Of Blue was recorded, and Elmer Bernstein’s West Side Story. A former church, 100 foot high ceiling, room acoustics  like no other.

Columbia gives space on the liner notes to promoting Columbia’s roster of  “popular vocalists”, of little interest to improvisational modern jazz fans. Tick-box corporate marketing stands out like a sore thumb.  Someone also signed off the cover design in which Mobley looks seriously hacked off, perhaps pressaging the move with Silver. But you also get the inside dope on Columbia’s leading edge recording technology.

Thank heavens for Blue Note – you get what it says on the tin (not horse-meat).

Those knowledgeable on Columbia’s matrix code system can probably tell me where this particular pressing emerges in the hierarchy of masters,  mothers and stampers.



Collectors Corner

Source: Collection of the late Brian Clark

Is it desirable? Is it rare? Is it valuable? Sheesh, who knows, it’s a great recording with an unusual provenance, and Mobley is firing on all cylinders with the advantage of youth. Great line up, impossible to resist. Just say Yes, like I did.

Got to love those Six-Eye Columbia.

12 thoughts on “The Jazz Messengers (1956) Columbia Six-Eye

  1. One graphic and a thousand words? How right you are. Only two days ago I was looking for just such a thing having just acquired a Vogue copy of Ritual. I was trying to place the line up in the history of the Messengers which is only in my head and is less tidy than my sock draw. I save that sort of order for the records on my shelf, though I do sometimes get cross that there are some Jazz Messengers under ‘J’ and Art Blakey is under ‘B’. Now it all becomes clear(er)


  2. At the time this album was recorded and released, Columbia LP’s were pressed in two places: Bridgeport, CT and Hollywood, CA. (Terre Haute, IN began pressing albums later in 1957.) The label fonts shown in the scans of each side were from Bridgeport, ergo that pressing would have been from there. For a time in early 1957, at least one of the cutting rooms at Columbia’s 799 Seventh Avenue studios, besides having the famed machine-stamped type, had a five-pointed star outline which was a bit bigger than the star symbol used in those days at Capitol’s Los Angeles pressing plant. I’ve seen it on some 45’s I have of the period (i.e. Johnny Mathis’ “It’s Not For Me To Say,” Marty Robbins’ “A White Sport Coat (And A Pink Carnation)”). The cutting engineers would not have been the ones who recorded, edited and mixed the records in question.

    The ‘1E’ at the end of each matrix number on both sides indicate these were the fifth lacquers cut from the first cutting master tape. Besides the Bridgeport and Hollywood plants, New York also shipped lacquers to Canada for plating, processing and pressing. G-d knows where 1A through 1D went.


  3. Since they’re close in your listing, I’d like to share with you what an Instagram follower of mine told me some days ago. This Jazz Messengers cover art, together with Mingus Ah Um, Dave Brubeck’s Time Out and Don Byrd/Gigi Gryce Modern Jazz Perspective, are all designed by the same guy, called Neil Fujita. He’s also famous for the design of Mario Puzo’s Godfather book cover (which was used for the movie too), Truman Capote’s Cold Blood book cover and few other things. You can find on Wikipedia his full bio. If you already reported this and I missed it I apologize.


  4. The fashion of the day is also interesting to note on the record cover, especially as some of it looks pretty contemporary. Personally, I have always enjoyed Art Blakey’s playing much more when he was wearing a suit then when he was wearing a dashiki.


    • Thanks, I thought it was “kinda neat” as they say, or perhaps “cool”. Love Excel.
      Keith Jarrett is found on AB & The Jazz Messengers, Buttercorn Lady (Limelight LM 82034) recorded at Hermosa Beach CA, January 1 & 9,1966. New Years day? There must be a story there, though may be he was just a session man for the days. The line up changes from record to record from here on.

      My favourite Messenger’s line up is the 1958 Golson/ Morgan / Timmons/ Merritt. And all the others.


      • I heard that 1958 group live and also the 1959 one. I remember the latter was a big deception then. But in hindsight the Wayne Shorter sound has been more lasting than the one-off Golson contribution.


        • I have watched them both on You Tube, though I suspect it is no match for the real thing. I am profoundly envious. The1958 Golson/Morgan performance of Moanin’ in Belgium is remarkable, especially considering they were playing in only black and white 😉

          I still watch it from time to time. I like the distracted glance of Bobby Timmons at some dumb photographer down in the orchestra pit at 30 secs. The handover from Morgan to Golson is a highlight. I just wish there was more film from this time. It comes to life.


          • The ’58 lineup is also my favorite, but the Shorter/Hubbard years are a close second.

            I have some Bobby Timmons Riverside LPs, which are a mixed bag. A great talent with a very uneven output. I also have a rather interesting Pacific Jazz LP featuring Timmons on piano before the Messengers, “Chet Baker and Crew”. It’s a Vogue release/Decca pressing of a Richard Bock recording in stereo from 1956(!).

            Jymie Merritt’s son Mike is continuing the family tradition and can be seen every night as the bass player for the “Basic Cable Band” on “Conan” here in the US:



            • Another vote here for the Morgan/Golson group (although for an individual performance, it’s hard to top Clifford Brown’s playing on the Birdland records). The ’56-’57 McLean and Johnny Griffin records have their charms too. They’re the very definition of “straight ahead,” but we often spin and thoroughly enjoy “Tough” (Cadet), the first “Night In Tunisia” (Vik), and “The Jazz Messengers Play Lerner and Loewe” (Vik) (which features a tremendous version of “Almost Like Being In Love”). Really, it’s hard to find a bad one in the bunch.


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