Art Blakey (1919–1990) actually needs little introduction. The American jazz drummer and bandleader made a name for himself in the 1940s and 1950s playing with contemporaries such as Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. He is often considered to have been Thelonious Monk’s most empathetic drummer (he played on both Monk’s first recording session in 1947 and his final one in 1971). In the decades that followed Blakey recorded for all THE labels that mattered in the field of jazz (Columbia, Blue Note, Atlantic, RCA, Impulse!, Riverside, Prestige, Verve, etc.). His collaborations were numerous and include working with equally legendary artists such as Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, Chet Baker, John Coltrane….and countless others.
Art Blakey was a major figure and a pioneer for modern jazz, he assumed an aggressive swing drumming style early on in his career and is known as one of the inventors of the modern bebop style of drumming. His signature polyrhythmic style was amazing, exuding power and originality, creating a dark cymbal sound punctuated by frequent loud snare and bass drum accents in triplets or cross-rhythms. A loud and domineering drummer…but Blakey also listened and responded to the others in the band. He was an original, an important drummer you’d hear…and would recognize immediately.
Art Blakey was inducted into the Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame (1981), the Modern Drummer Hall of Fame (1991), the Grammy Hall of Fame (1998 and 2001) and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously in 2005. He was sampled and remixed by renowned acts such as Raekwon, Black Eyed Peas, A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Buscemi, KRS-One and Madlib.
In the mid-1950s he and Horace Silver formed ‘The Jazz Messengers’: a group that Blakey would perform and record with for the next 35 years. Originally formed as a collective of contemporaries…but over the years the band became known as an incubator for young talent that included artists such as Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Chuck Mangione, John Hicks…and MANY others. Art Blakey went on to record dozens of albums with a constantly changing group of Jazz Messengers. Blakey’s final performances were in July 1990. He died on October 16 of lung cancer. The legacy of Art Blakey and his band is not only the music they produced, but also the opportunities they provided for several generations of jazz musicians.
On the album we are presenting you today, you’ll find the eight sublime tracks recorded by renowned engineer Elvin Campbell at the CI Recording Studios (New York) in December 1977 that became known as the “In My Prime” sessions. These recordings were originally released on the legendary Dutch jazz label Timeless Records (and produced by its owner Wim Wigt) as two separate albums named Vol.1 & Vol.2.
As the leader of The Jazz Messengers (for over 22 years at the time of these recordings), drummer Art Blakey was still discovering new talent. In addition to altoist Bobby Watson (John Hicks, Charles Mingus), trumpeter Valery Ponomarev (Blue Note), bassist Dennis Irwin (Art Farmer), percussionist Ray Mantilla (Herbie Mann, Max Roach), Curtis Fuller (Quincy Jones, John Coltrane) on trombone and David Schnitter (Freddie Hubbard, Charles Earland) on tenor, this particular session also introduced the great pianist James Williams (Donald Byrd, Dizzy Gillespie) to the fold.
Despite the changes in musical fashions taking place at that particular period, Blakey and his hard-bop institution kept turning out new material and solos in the late 70s that still sound fresh, vibrant and alive today. The album showcases the Messengers’ energetic signature sound with remarkable style, musical knowledge, a dash of good humor and camaraderie you’d expect from a world class band and its leader. Expect supercharged hard bop with striking notes, no-holds-barred musicianship, high swinging solos, screaming choruses and plenty of solid virtuosity to spare. This release is not only a classic but also a bonafide hit and a must have for any self-respecting jazz fan or collector.
Tidal Waves Music now proudly presents the much-needed vinyl reissue of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ In My Prime which contains the complete NYC sessions recorded at the CI Recording Studios (New York) on December 29, 1977.
This unique album comes as a deluxe 180g DOUBLE vinyl edition (strictly limited to 2000 copies worldwide) with obi strip and is packaged in a gatefold jacket featuring the original artworks and session shots from Mark Bug Zester, Don Diesveld & Hans Harzheim (known for their work with artists such as Sun Ra, Chet Baker and Pharoah Sanders). To top it all off, this release also includes the original liner notes written by renowned author and producer Chip Stern (Ginger Baker, Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis).