Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Live At Sanremo Festival – March 23, 1963 – RAI –
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The legendary Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers, live at the 1963 Sanremo Festival in Italy and recorded for posterity by RAI on March 23, 1963.
I don’t think there’s anything that can be added to the already voluminous essays on the importance and innovation of Art Blakey’s presence was on the Jazz scene. So, to get newcomers up to speed and to remind fans, here’s a snippet from the highly informative bio on Art Blakey’s website (which you should visit anyway).
Art’s driving rhythms and his incessant two and four beat on the high hat cymbals were readily identifiable from the outset and remained a constant throughout 35 years of Jazz Messengers bands. What changed constantly was a seeming unending supply of talented sidemen, many of whom went on to become band leaders in their own right.
In the early years luminaries like Clifford Brown, Hank Mobley and Jackie McLean rounded out the band. In 1959, tenor saxophonist Benny Golson joined the quintet and — at Art’s behest — began working on the songbook and recruiting what became one of the timeless Messenger bands — tenor saxman Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and bassist Jymmie Merritt.
The songs produced from ’59 through the early ’60s became trademarks for the Messengers — including Timmon’s Moanin’, Golson’s Along Came Betty and Blues March and Shorter’s Ping Pong.
By this time, the Messengers had become a mainstay on the jazz club circuit and began recording on Blue Note Records. They began touring Europe, with forays into North Africa. In 1960, the Messengers became the first American Jazz band to play in Japan for Japanese audiences. That first Japanese tour was a high point for the band. At the Tokyo airport, the band was greeted by hundreds of fans as Blues March played over their airport intercom and their visit was televised nationally.
In 1961, trombonist Curtis Fuller transformed the Messengers into a proper sextet, giving the band the opportunity to incorporate a big band sound into their hard bop repertoire. Throughout the ’60s, the Messengers remained a mainstay on the jazz scene with jazz greats including Cedar Walton, Chuck Mangione, Keith Jarrett, Reggie Workman, Lucky Thompson and John Hicks. In the jazz drought of the ’70s, the Messengers remained a strong force, with fewer recordings, but no less energy. At a time when many jazz musicians were experimenting with electronics and fusing their music with pop, the Messengers were a mainstay of straight-ahead jazz.
Sit back and relax for the next 55 or so minutes and let Art Blakey take you there.