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!
My favourite Messengers set.
I have the Music Matters double 45rpm. It’s a hassle flipping each side but I find it difficult to sit on my backside when it’s on anyway.
Following on are A Night In Tunisia (Toshiba), The Big Beat (MM), Roots and Herbs (80’s ESD!), IMPULSE (Speakers Corner).
Although it’s not the messengers I have to mention Tomcat. It feels like the Messengers. No doubt due to Blakey, Morgan and Fuller but especially Art.
More favorite Blakeys not mentioned yet :
Like Someone In Love
Holiday For Skins Vol. 1+2
The African Beat
I have never been enthusiastic about the Messengers as a group with trombone added, à la The Jazztet. A number of live performances I attended, only confirmed my view.
The weaker group of the regular quintet format was the Bill Hardiman-Jackie McLean line up, with Sam Dockery on piano. Esp. the Cadet album to be avoided. But a few personnel changes can do miracles, substitute Monk for Dockery and Griffin for Mclean, and there is the fantastic
1. Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk on Atlantic
2. The Big Beat
3. Bohemia vol.2 (Soft Winds!)
4.At the Jazz Corner of the World w. Mobley Morgan
5.the Columbia album with Silver Mobley
Oh, I passed the boundaries set by LJC. Should be Blue Note only.
Ditto vol. 2
The Big Beat
Jazz Corner of the World 1 or 2
Night in Tunisia
Not so much my favourites but 5 of the 6 LPs on my shelf.
Night In Tunisia (from an RCA Germany 1979 2fa)
Child’s Dance Prestige 1973 – a
At The Jazz Corner Of The World
Also, “Calling Ms. Khadija” is one of the best JM tracks ever. Prime Lee Morgan tune. Jumps out of the speakers.
A Night At Birdland, Vol. 1 (Clifford Brown on fire)
The Big Beat
The Witch Doctor
1 A Night In Tunisia (BN version) (Art signed my copy for me)
2 Indestructible (I love the Arabic moods it creates)
3 Free For All
5 The Freedom Rider
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Having not heard all of Blakey’s Blue Note recordings, my favorites would be the ones I own (Indestructible, Moanin’, Meet You At the Jazz Corner Vol 1 and 2, Free for All). All but Moanin’ are original mono. Your fabulous Messengers’ alumni diagram reminds me of Blakey’s often discussed dedication to train the next generation of jazz musicians. Is anyone aware of current musicians that use their band to this extent as a training ground for new musicians? It seems that jazz has gone the route of formal education; most universities that have a music departement include a jazz program that hires established musicians as teachers. Probably a good source of income for the musicians as well as a more rounded education for the students.
I am surprised no one mentioned A Night In Tunisia. To me Bobby Timmons “So Tired” and Morgan and Shorter’s solos on said track are superb. Ditto for the title track.
My favorite Jazz Messengers records:
Free For All
The Big Beat
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Love this album, dark & angry affair which the cover perfectly fits. The gatefold photos do a great job of delivering the feel of this session.
Thought that The Witch Doctor was the last Blakey album on BN but checking Discogs i see it was recorded in 1961, another great Messengers album which took some years to see the light of day.
Thank you for this article! This is indeed, a very good album. One of the first Blakey Blue Notes that I bought. It has always remained a favorite of mine. The session features such a strong front horn section, and such good writing.
On the CD reissue, which I never got around to buying, there was an extra cut that was titled, I think, “It’s A Long Way Down.”
Have you heard this track, and if so your comments on it would be welcome! As always, Best and thank you for these reviews, and discographical histories! Ed Edward Fenning email@example.com
hope you enjoyed your holiday! I’m just back from mine.
i haven’t heard all the blakey i should (i try to listen when i buy, and not before), and i admit my favorites are on impulse, columbia, and atlantic. this is high on my want list. had the chance to snag a mono once for a great price, but it had a scary mark… should have at least tried!
LJC, this review is getting some interest on Facebook. Someone referenced your blog. Anyway it’s nice to see the interest you write about is showing up all over social media. I for one have two copies of Indestructible. One New York BN mono version in fairly nice condition, and then a stereo MM 45rpm version. As you might expect, the mono copy has more heft, while the stereo MM cast a really wide soundstage. Great frontline with Lee, Wayne and Curtis, but Reggie Workman caught my attention when I first heard this album some many years ago. He lays down some very intriguing lines on his upright. Your blog of course prompted me to reintroduce myself to be this gem. Reggie and the fellas still sounding good.
You may know this, I can’t remember if you’d mentioned it here or not. The “Little LP” was actually specifically for jukebox play. Pop versions would have as many as three tracks a side and the jazz ones got the benefit of one unedited track per side (usually, I have an Elvin Jones jukebox LP on Impluse which rudely cuts each track at exactly three minutes, regardless of if it’s anywhere near over or not.) The idea was, they’d charge more for a longer play and the Little LPs tended to be more adult oriented musics, though later on they got on the rock bandwagon.
There’s lots of Jazz little LPs out there but the one I really want for my colllection, and I have a jukebox which plays them, when the temperamental beast is working, is Coltrane’s Ascention. It’s edited, but can you imagine walking into a bar and putting a quarter in for seven minutes of that? I’d love to find the place that had that on the jukebox.
You could play Ascension and have the whole bar to yourself within three minutes.
My top five:
Free for All
Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World Vol. 1
The Big Beat
Hi, LJC, I am really enjoying these in-depth reviews, making your site required reading! Thanks so much for all that you are doing here, I look forward to your next installment.
Blimey Andy, are you some sort of mind reader? I just took a break from working on the next posting for Into Somethin’ to check LJC and what do I find? You’ve written about the same LP that I’m currently drafting a posting about! In my case it’s the original mono first pressing rather than the MM33 stereo and I’m going for The Egyptian as my audio sample. Well, I’d better pull my finger out and finish writing so that our mutual virtual friends can compare and contrast both pressings!
Competition, no problem! Its all for good.
Finally finished my posting about Indestructible! Slight change of plan with the sample track though: intosomethin.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/art-blakey-and-the-jazz-messengers-indestructible-blue-note-blp-4193/ Enjoy!
and I was just listening to the Messengers recording of The Egyptian from the BBC on youtube that you pointed me at in the forums.