April 20, 2024

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CD review: Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Live in Paris 13 may 1961 – 2024: Video, CD cover

Art Blakey was among the most influential jazz drummers in the world, and his Jazz Messengers were a legendary band: you only have to look at the amazing number of great soloists it revealed in three decades (fifties to eighties.)

This set contains live recordings the Messengers made in Paris on 13 May 1961 – it was the band’s golden age, fea­turing such wonderful instrumentalists as Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter in its ranks, notably playing titles like “Moanin’” and “Blues March”.

The music here is played at fever pitch by young musicians who groove like thunder; as a kind of transcription of Blakey’s version of the hard bop revolution, it probably comes very close to perfection.

The Live in Paris collection by Michel Brillié allows listeners to hear previously-unreleased recordings (made at concerts and private- or radio-sessions) by the great 20th stars in jazz, rock & roll and song. These “live” takes, and the artists’ rapport with their audiences, gives these performances an additional soul and sensibility in counterpoint to the rigorous demands of studio recordings. Particular care was taken when restoring the sound of these tapes in order to meet CD standards while preserving the original colours of the period.

Founded in 1953 by Horace Silver and Art Blakey, the Jazz Messengers experienced multiple incarnations during the almost forty years that the group lasted. Their seminal pianist having left to form his own quintet in 1956, the drummer then led a crew whose configuration remained more or less the same, even though its members experienced a significant turnover. During their first European tour in ’59, the Jazz Messengers (in addition to Art Blakey, tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Lee Morgan, bassist Jymie Merritt and pianist Walter Davis Jr, who then replaced Bobby Timmons) performed at the Parisian Olympia, as part of the “Jazz Wednesdays” organized there by the proselytes Daniel Filipacchi and Franck Ténot. The concept was simple: a first concert at 6:00 p.m. for early sleepers, and a second the same evening from midnight for night owls. In the meantime, the room masterfully managed by Bruno Coquatrix had the leisure to continue its general public programming in the evening, while the two jazzophiles in charge proceeded to record and mix the subsequent recordings (which they then entertained listeners of their famous show “Pour Those Who Love Jazz”, on Europe N°1). Symptomatically, the two thieves chose the “Blues March” of the Messengers for the theme song of their radio program, thus establishing it as the first “hit” of modern jazz on the French-speaking airwaves.

When they returned to Paris three years later, Blakey and his henchmen were welcomed as quasi-messiahs, and once again packed an Olympia audibly won over to their cause. With the return of their historic pianist, Bobby Timmons (but still with Shorter and Morgan on the blowers), it is a demonstration of hard bop at its pinnacle that Michel Brillié and Gilles Pétard now bring us. Introduced by “The Summit” by Shorter, this triple CD box set includes twenty tracks in almost 3h40′, during which we delight in the transcription of standards such as “My Funny Valentine”, “Round Midnight”, and “Night In Tunisia” (the latter two according to two distinct versions).

After a short (but thunderous) introduction from the boss, Lee Morgan’s “Kozo’s Waltz” (on an appropriate ternary beat) first opens the field to a whirling solo from Wayne Shorter, soon relayed by that of its author, before until Blakey’s sticks take flight solo again. Timmons’ fast-paced playing shines on Shorter’s “Those Who Sit And Wait” and Rodgers & Hart’s “It’s Only A Paper Moon” (also punctuated by thunderous dialogue between Morgan’s trumpet and his leader’s drumsticks). , while Shorter’s tenor only pours out, with the brilliance we know him for, on his own “Noise In The Attic”.

Flagship titles of the quintet, “Blues March” and “Moanin’” also appear in jubilant extended play, and although the sound recording shows its vintage (despite a tip-top restoration), the joy and vivacity which are nevertheless generate support. It’s a shame that Boris Vian (undoubtedly present during our protagonists’ performance in 59) was unable to attend this second fireworks display.

CD1
1 The Summit 10’21
2 Band Intro 01’44
3 Yama 12’04
4 Close Your Eyes 12’22
5 Dat Dere 09’56
6 Lost & Found 16’34
7 Round Midnight [First Concert] 12’15

CD2
1 Kozo’s Waltz 17’53
2 Those Who Sit and Wait 10’34
3 Night in Tunisia [First Concert] 11’40
4 The Theme 01’58
5 Round Midnight [Second Concert] 10’59
6 So Tired 12’37
7 My Funny Valentine 06’59

CD3
1 It’s Only a Papermoon 14’36
2 Noise in the Attic 12’26
3 Moanin’ 10’42
4 I Didn’t Know what Time it Was 05’47
5 Blues March 12’34
6 Night in Tunisia [Second Concert] 16’32

BOBBY TIMMONS (PIANO)

JYMIE MERRITT (DB)

WAYNE SHORTER (SAX TEN)

LEE MORGAN (TP)

ART BLAKEY (DMS)

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