Drummer Art Blakey and his legendary Jazz Messengers ran a gospelly boppish repertoire according to formula for decades. What marked out particular sessions were the soloists - just about everybody in hard bop, from Lee Morgan to a teenage Wynton Marsalis. Morgan is in blustery, belligerent form on this Paris live session from 1959, one of the most exciting of a group of Universal reissues themed on Paris. The city offered a haven to jazz musicians who didn't fit elsewhere. One of the most famous, pianist Bud Powell, guests on two tracks here, delivering a couple of pungent bop solos on his own pieces Dance of the Infidels and In Walked Bud. Young French saxophone guest Barney Wilen plays with a broad Jackie McLean-ish freedom. But the heated live-show informality is really stoked by Blakey's elemental (or maybe just mental) drumming and some spine-tingling improvising by the young Wayne Shorter, unintentional reed-squeaks and all. When Shorter's gruff, gargling tenor sax barges in after the theme of a demented Night in Tunisia, the roar from the crowd takes you right into the front row, and Blakey's fire threatens to blast him into orbit.
CD: Art Blakey, Paris Jam Session
John Fordham is the Guardian's main jazz critic. He has written several books on the subject, reported on it for publications including Time Out, Sounds, Wire and Word, and contributed to documentaries for radio and TV. He is a former editor of Time Out, City Limits and Jazz UK, and regularly contributes to BBC Radio 3's Jazz on 3