CD: Art Blakey, Mosaic

(Blue Note)

When Courtney Pine's generation of young black British jazz musicians were on the way in the late 1980s, one of their main models was American hard-bop drummer Art Blakey's band, Jazz Messengers - Pine and his fellow UK saxophonist Steve Williamson even played in it. The Messengers ran in various forms from 1954 until not long before Blakey died in 1990; Wynton Marsalis was a member in the early 1980s.

This 1960 version is one of the strongest, with Wayne Shorter on tenor, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Cedar Walton on piano. Blakey's talkative, peremptory drumming and driving beat powers it all. Shorter's tenor sound is at its dark, succinctly crackling best, while Fuller's warm trombone lines and Hubbard's high-register accuracy contrast sharply with the saxophone lines. And the young Walton sounds as if he can't wait to pour out a flood of bright ideas at every break he gets.

Shorter's composition Children of the Night perfectly fits the Messengers' drily swinging formula while extending the scope of its melodies. Curtis Fuller's Arabia has a few Caravan cliches in it, but Hubbard's Crisis beautifully balances a rich and mellow brass-ensemble counterpoint with an abrupt, squalling release. And Shorter even throws a sardonic Camptown Races in among the snorting low notes and swelling runs in his solo. Vintage hard-bop.


John Fordham

The GuardianTramp

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