Art Blakey

Mike Stand

Silver Member
I saw Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers at a JazzMobile concert outdoors at Grants Tomb on the edge of Harlem in NYC ~ 1978. I still remember it vividly! The first tune was Free for All (from one of the greatest Blue Note Albums). From the downbeat it was one of the most exciting concerts I have ever seen. When you watched him play, it was pure music. You didn't see the kind of technique that some people have acquired these days (not so important), but you FELT an amazing force that ignited the band and music and made you realize that there was something special here. The feeling in the music sent chills up your spine.
Just listening to those old Jazz Messengers albums sends chills up my spine, I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like to experience Blakey live!

Blakey opened the door to jazz for me. I remember exactly when and how. I heard a Jazz Messengers version of Only a Paper Moon and the very first beat began with Blakey striking his crash/ride on the edge and then continuing with the classic jazz ding-a-ding ride pattern. (Sorry, I'm not technically competent enough to explain this in proper music terms)

The recording (on a BlueNote best of collection) seemed too smooth for it to be live, but I never found a studio album that had this version on it. Strange? And I've got a ton of Blakey albums. Does anyone know which album this particular version might be on?

I'm slightly disappointed that this thread only has 40 something posts. But then again, it's not surprising. Blakey wasn't just a drummer but a band leader that provided the structure and basis for some of the most amazing music. Like I said about another drummer (Brian Blade), you just can't rationalise what he did. Words are not enough.
With Blakey, it's arguably all the more difficult to explain because his technique and style seems, dare I say, quite basic compared to the complexity and technique so many drummers show. And still, the swing and groove he created with only a few simple strokes was out of this world. I suppose you have to feel it to believe it.

People ask what came before the big bang, I reckon it was Art Blakey!
 

dmacc_2

Well-known member
Just listening to those old Jazz Messengers albums sends chills up my spine, I can't begin to imagine what it must have been like to experience Blakey live!

Blakey opened the door to jazz for me. I remember exactly when and how. I heard a Jazz Messengers version of Only a Paper Moon and the very first beat began with Blakey striking his crash/ride on the edge and then continuing with the classic jazz ding-a-ding ride pattern. (Sorry, I'm not technically competent enough to explain this in proper music terms)

The recording (on a BlueNote best of collection) seemed too smooth for it to be live, but I never found a studio album that had this version on it. Strange? And I've got a ton of Blakey albums. Does anyone know which album this particular version might be on?

I'm slightly disappointed that this thread only has 40 something posts. But then again, it's not surprising. Blakey wasn't just a drummer but a band leader that provided the structure and basis for some of the most amazing music. Like I said about another drummer (Brian Blade), you just can't rationalise what he did. Words are not enough.
With Blakey, it's arguably all the more difficult to explain because his technique and style seems, dare I say, quite basic compared to the complexity and technique so many drummers show. And still, the swing and groove he created with only a few simple strokes was out of this world. I suppose you have to feel it to believe it.

People ask what came before the big bang, I reckon it was Art Blakey!
I saw Blakey live in either 1982 or 1983, I don't recall. Wynton was with him then. All I recall was my adrenaline going wild - same way when I sat about 8 feet from Buddy's bass drum all night. Both left a lifelong impression on me.

Free for All is a killer album.

The Big Beat is the studio album where you'll find It's "Only A Paper Moon".
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
I saw Blakey live in either 1982 or 1983, I don't recall. Wynton was with him then. All I recall was my adrenaline going wild - same way when I sat about 8 feet from Buddy's bass drum all night. Both left a lifelong impression on me.

Free for All is a killer album.

The Big Beat is the studio album where you'll find It's "Only A Paper Moon".
Hi dmacc,

I certainly envy you for those experiences. I'm afraid Art was long gone before I'd even started drumming at the age of 14.

I don't think this is the same version of It's Only a Paper Moon. I have the Big Beat and from memory it doesn't sound quite the same. Can't check because the "Best Of" CD is at my dad's place hundreds of miles away.

I don't think the Rudy van Gelder remaster would have altered the sound so substantially that it sounded like a different version either.

The search continues.
 
I kind of think of Art as the rock drummer's jazz drummer. Every recording I hear from him he's just pounding and thwacking and kicking and thumping. Don't think I've heard a single ghost note in everything he's played.

Works for some songs, not for others. It's just funny, this came up b/c when rehearsing a couple standards I asked "The Blakey version?" and everyone in the group said "Please, no." It's become a running joke.
 

Pocket-full-of-gold

Platinum Member
I kind of think of Art as the rock drummer's jazz drummer.
I totally get this. But personally I love him for it. Without it I might still be trying to start at Elvin on A Love Supreme and wonder WTF it was all about and if I'd ever be able to get a handle on it.

I attribute it to his strong sense of 2 and 4 and it was exactly what this back beat orientated rock drummer needed to finally be able to develop a far deeper appreciation of the jazz form.

I often see threads where rock/back beat drummers are wondering "how to get into jazz". I reckon the perfect place to start is with Blakey on Moanin' or Mobley's Soul Station or the like. But no doubt "the rock drummer's jazz drummer" was my launching point to finally being able to get inside so much more.
 

JohnW

Silver Member
Well, he certainly wasn't shy and would hit it out of the park regularly. But he could also play as quiet "as a rat pissin' on cotton", especially for contrast. He built the music up from the bottom and one of the things that set him apart from one dimensional bashers was a beautiful, full sound at every volume level.

I was fortunate enough to meet him a few times and see him play up close; behind the set, in front and to the side. Every note he played was to project the music and recordings can't do justice to it.
 

geezer

Senior Member
Art Blakey was my introduction to jazz drumming way back in the day - he was in Ireland to play at the Cork Jazz festival - 1988 I think? Anyways, he ended up doing a small "secret" show in Dublin at a little venue called the Speakeasy, just off of Dame St (I think the side entrance was on Temple Lane) - the very next day I went out and got the only record of his I could find at a used record shop - "A Night At Birdland, Vol. 3", which was also the record that introduced me to the wonderful Clifford Brown, which then of course introduced me to Max Roach. I ended up taping all of my punk records on cassette tapes, then traded the vinyl in (50+ tatty well worn albums) for a selection of 10 new bop era jazz records - that's how big an influence seeing Art Blakey was for this young Dublin punk kid back in '88.
 
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8Mile

Platinum Member
Art Blakey is the most swinging drummer ever, no one swings harder, no one has swung harder and no one will swing as hard.

PROOF --> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q0Om2kfkCqA&hd=1
You got that right, William.

There was a period about 20 years ago when I had the title track off Free For All on constant repeat in my car. I don't think any band ever hit it with that kind of sustained intensity on a record date. You can hear Art yelling with approval as each soloist somehow reaches higher and higher highs.

Yes, Art was enormously important. He could swing you into bad health, as the old jazz cats used to say.
 

eddypierce

Senior Member
Every recording I hear from him he's just pounding and thwacking and kicking and thumping. Don't think I've heard a single ghost note in everything he's played.
Blakey could actually play soft notes on the snare quite effectively. One of his signature licks that I love is the playing of the second two triplet partials (softly) on the snare with his left hand while his right hand plays time on the ride cymbal.
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
That was enjoyable, thanks for posting Awesome! Sidenote just saw an interesting documentary about Lee Morgan on Netflix.
 

J-Boogie

Gold Member
Just threw on Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers A Night in Tunisia....wow slammin high energy fun!! Need me some more Art in my life.
 
I just watched:Jazz Icons "Art Blakey & the jazz messengers. Live in '58". The line up: Art Blakey, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Benny Golson, and Lee Morgan. According to the liner notes on the DVD: "This historic concert is the only known visual of this influential band." It was pretty cool to watch, The sound was better than I expected. If you get a chance, I recommend watching it if you haven't already.
 
I just watched:Jazz Icons "Art Blakey & the jazz messengers. Live in '58". The line up: Art Blakey, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Benny Golson, and Lee Morgan. According to the liner notes on the DVD: "This historic concert is the only known visual of this influential band." It was pretty cool to watch, The sound was better than I expected. If you get a chance, I recommend watching it if you haven't already.
I did buy this DVD years ago and I liked it, too. In the meantime somebody has uploaded it to youtube however. :)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX-Y-6kw8HU
 
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