Selection: Sortie (Fuller)
Lee Morgan (trumpet) Curtis Fuller (trombone) Wayne Shorter (tenor sax) Cedar Walton (piano) Reggie Workman (bass) Art Blakey (drums) recorded Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, April 24 – May 15, 1964
1964, the last, stable and longest-lived Jazz Messengers line-up, part of a proud ten-year Messenger history, including around five years of Wayne Shorter, Blakey as incubator of giant talent. The Messengers’ alumni is worth a few moments reflection (dates approximate, relevance, absolute).
Art Blakey, at this time twenty years into his recording career. Beyond 1965, the Jazz Messengers became a more eclectic pick-up band, changing membership from one recording to the next, including even John Gilmore briefly, recording for a labels like Mercury/Limelight, Fantasy/Prestige, the Dutch label Timeless, and a veritable sushi of Japanese labels – Paddle Wheel, BayState, Break Time, Eastworld, Union Jazz and Alfa Jazz. Got to love our friends in Japan for their dedication to the music. Curtain fell on Blakey’s musical contribution to a better world in 1990.
The Indestructible session was recorded in 1964, Blakey’s last album for Blue Note Records, and not released for a further two years. Including those released by Liberty, Blakey and his Messengers count twenty-four Blue Notes, second only to Jimmy Smith’s twenty-seven titles. Inevitably you find yourself asking: do I need another Blakey album? The answer is a resounding yes, you do, if it’s Indestructible. This is rival benchmark to Moanin’ (Moanin’ my vote for The Number One Blakey)
The Messengers here are honed to perfection, tuned in to each others thinking, a solid sextet foundation, loose/tight solo space, team performance at peak. The line up was not destined to last, but should be savoured for what it achieves in this “last Blue Note”. The tunes cover all bases, from ballad, off-latin, modal, bluesy, soulful and swinging mainstream hard bop, all the flavours of the mid ’60s on one plate.
Shorter is confident, abrasive, sour-toned, leaning out, signalling his readiness for Miles post-bop world. Morgan is peppery and glittering in a brief return to the fold in place of Hubbard. The presence of Curtis Fuller adds an extra richness to the brass harmonies, and a further dimension to the stereo presentation, and he also contributes compositions occupying all of one side. Blakey is hard-swinging as per usual, and the rhythm section of Workman and Cedar Walton are in lock-step. This is not a session to be overlooked, everyone is so 1964, not 1966 divergence.
Vinyl: BST 84193 MM33 – review copy
The original release of Indestructible! BLP 4193 is one of the lowest Blue Note catalogue number found without the “ear”, in the company of Andrew Hill’s Andrew! BLP 42013, two of the thirty-five original Blue Note recordings first released by Liberty.
Music Matters work their now familiar stereo magic with a large wall-to-wall spacious sound-stage, contrasting the more centrally focused original Liberty. With three brass instruments on the go, Van Gelder has got the mix and balance just right, and MM have captured that information-rich instrument delivery. My Dynavector TKR cart, with its nude design and long profile stylus, is really excited by what’s happening in those grooves, which hopefully the Avid Acutus rip captures.
The gatefold, as always, deliver a visual connection with the music and presence in the recording session, always a delight. And a great “Smokin'” cover.
Collector’s Corner – what’s the alternative?
Blue Note Mono original, Liberty (1966)
Blue Note Stereo original, Liberty (1966)
Both sport NY labels printed earlier, and the first edition covers unusually have Blue Note-like large catalogue number top right on the back. Popsike reveals very modest auction results – a premium for sealed copies, falling very quickly into the more affordable range, I call this a bargain and undervalued title, especially in view of the line up, which somehow lacks collector appeal. Perhaps, because it is not “insanely rare!”, but it’s insanely good music. Choice here is between mono and stereo.
The availability of mono is tempting, but this sextet offering makes a credible case for stereo, your call. United Artists produced a “Little LP” – better known as an 7″ EP – and Japanese and European reissues followed in the ’80s, none of which look compelling alternatives, though I haven’t heard them so I can’t comment.
I didn’t find many more modern reissues, but perhaps it wasn’t high in the priority reissue list, which is a shame, because it is a great record, if that counts for anything.
I thought of doing a poll on Blakey records, but the idea of typing 24 titles into Polldaddy was just much too much. However, you might want to volunteer your Top Five Blakey Blue Notes. You do the typing, great!