#154 Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Big Beat

Arthur ‘Art’ Blakey is one bad-ass drummer, arguably the best jazz drummer of all time, and this is one of his definitive albums. It’s one of the 76 albums he recorded as a leader of the Jazz Messengers, and in common with many of them, it shows off the raw rhythmic sensibilities of Blakey along with Wayne Shorter’s inventive compositions and lyrical tenor saxophone.

The album was released in 1960 on the famous Blue Note label, and my copy of it is part of a 3-CD set including other classic Blakey / Jazz Messenger albums Moanin’ and A Night In Tunisia. The Jazz Messengers, led by Blakey throughout it’s near 40-year history, was essentially a finishing school for jazz musicians, it’s alumni a roll-call of jazz’s fastest and finest. On this particular album, it’s the genius of Wayne Shorter that graces its grooves.

We have three Shorter originals on this record, and it’s two of them, Sakeena’s Vision and Lester Left Town. that are the highlights here, not least for Blakey’s storming drum solo on the former. He’s well known for the sheer power of his drumming, and the title Big Beat is particularly apt. But he’s equally skilled at band leadership and in creating a structure for other musicians to shine and improvise, and with the likes of Shorter on sax and Lee Morgan on trumpet, there’s plenty of both on this record.

Blakey well deserves his place in the pantheon of jazz gods and disproves the mythical fate of the drummer (according to Spinal Tap) – he was playing right up to his death at the age of 71.

Best Bits: The jazz classic – Lester Left Town
Genre: Jazz
Like This, Try This: Air drumming – on public transport

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