R’nR With Rylo
Spin #32 : Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: The Big Beat
Updated: Oct 11, 2022
Musicians on Album: Art Blakey (drums), Lee Morgan (Trumpet), Wayne Shorter (Tenor Sax), Bobby Timmons (Piano) and Jymie Merritt (bass)
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers: The Big Beat Year Released : 1960 (repress from 2022) Produced by Alfred Lion Label: Blue Note (ST-84029) Price Range: $50+AUD Speed: 33 1/3 RPM Album Before : Moanin' (1959) Album After : A Night In Tunisia (1960) Further Listening : The Freedom Rider (1962) LP : 1 x black LP Mood for enjoying: Get yourself a nice whiskey or Gin/Tonic to enjoy this one. Put the low light of a lamp on and let this one soak in. Best enjoyed tapping along on a wing backed chair by the fireplace (if you have that kind of setup). Track Listing:
LP Side A
The Chess Players - 9:31
Sakeena's Vision - 6:04
Politely - 6:04
Side B Dat Dere - 8:47
Lester Left Town - 6:26
Its Only A Paper Moon - 6:38
What's in the Sleeve ? 1 x Black LP with inner paper sleeve showing different Blue Note artists.
"Music is supposed to wash away the dust of everyday life"- Art Blakey
Welcome to Spin #32 - Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - The Big Beat
Welcome to our 32nd Spin at R'nR With Rylo! This week I have decided to write about an album by my favourite drummer of all time, Art Blakey. The album I have chosen is 'The Big Beat' by his band The Jazz Messengers and if you are passionate about Jazz and drumming then you'll find something to love whilst spinning this record. Have you all tried to find a small amount of time this week for yourselves? I have tried to keep a balanced approach lately, accepting my limitations and being the best version I can be for myself and my family. Moments like spinning a record help with focusing on what is important in your life.
For this Spin I have used our set up in the loungeroom (Sherwood Turntable PM-9805 and Sherwood Receiver RX-4508). The 4 x Sherwood bookshelf speakers provide a decent range of sound without needing bass heavy speakers. The Jazz Messengers deserve to be played on our bigger set-up, so sit back, relax and enjoy!
Drop the Needle (of course means place the stylus nicely on your wax):
It would have been in early 2007, I was getting ready for a trip overseas with my father to England when I stumbled across Jazz. In particular, I searched for albums that had standout drumming and the best technician that I came across was Art Blakey. When it came to studying for exams I found putting on a nice jazz album helped with my focus and ability to retain information. Well jazz and rap albums to be completely honest with you. Although it is hard to pick a favourite album when it comes to Art Blakey and his band The Jazz Messengers, the album I have selected to Spin on this fine Sunday is worthy of the top spot consideration.
Art Blakey and Horace Silver came up with the original title of The Jazz Messengers for their band name, however when Silver left he insisted that Blakey continue on. Blakey seemed to attract the best and brightest musicians throughout the life of the The Jazz Messengers and often said that surrounding yourself with youth and enthusiastic musicians keeps your mind young and focused. 'The Big Beat' came at a time where the band probably had its strongest line up - Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on the tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on the piano and Jymie Merritt on the bass. I was amazed to hear that Blakey originally started as a talented pianist before being asked to move aside to the drums during his early days of playing in clubs. At the time the talented Erroll Garner was promoted to piano and was a fortunate moment as we now have Garner and Blakey as masters of their crafts.
I have placed the black LP pressed by the ever reliable Blue Note, onto the turntable and instantly feel the balance and care put into this product. The label is pristine and there was no damage caused during its shipping from the United States of America. The stylus is placed on the outer grooves of Side A on 'The Big Beat' and the sounds of 'The Chess Players' begins.
Now this album is an absolute bop along and it starts so well with the back and forth between all the players. The feeling of "you take a turn and then I'll show you what I'm capable of" is similar to two people playing a game of chess. There is such a positivity throughout this over 9 minute jam. Timmons, Merritt and Blakey keep that steady rhythm throughout and allow the likes of Morgan on trumpet and Shorter on Tenor Sax to really shine. If you close your eyes on this number you will really allow the layers to soak in and give you that relaxing feeling. I find that music is a powerful thing in people's lives and can make you remember certain moments. For me, music has the ability to transport you to a different time - for better or worse. It feels focused, driven and fun all at the same time and if you enjoy this track then you will get the urge to delve into their other albums. 'The Chess Players' fades out with Morgan before the stylus moves along through the dead wax.
Straight into the second track on 'The Big Beat' and the high energy sounds of 'Sakeena's Vision' is upon you before you know it. It has a quicker pace by the band and I learnt that Sakeena is the name of one of Blakey's daughters (he had 10 children all up!). There is something else being played by Morgan on this track and sounds like possibly a Flugelhorn (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard would be so proud). Blakey also shows off his extraordinary talents midway through 'Sakeena's Vision' and is one of those moments where you don't want it to stop. If you want to check out a modern drummer then look no further than Michael Cavanaugh's album, 'CAVS'. Blakey has a ferocious intensity as he plays and doesn't ever miss a beat. He is commanding throughout this moment and you feel the pace and intensity slow, right before he explodes again. The other band members wait for the moment to be counted back in and assist with a big finish to the track. This album is currently available to purchase via the Blue Note store but they don't stay available for long.
'Politely' really showcases Merritt's bass with the almost 'baby elephant walk' kind of feeling. This piece of music also gives Timmons a chance to share some of that limelight on the keys. 'Politely' feels like you are listening along in a jazz bar where it's already closer to dawn than it is to dusk, with a nice drink in hand. It feels so different to the pieces of music played earlier on the album but at the same time fits as the closer for Side A. Morgan for his age (22 years old) had already impressed so many of his colleagues that he gained more and more confidence, which can be heard towards the end of this track. I didn't realise until researching a couple of the Blue Note players that Morgan was shot at the age of 33 years old (so sad as that is how old I am at time of this spin). Side A has come to an end and it is time to flip the LP and get ready for Side B.
The title of the first track on Side B just oozes confidence and demands your attention. 'Dat Dere' is almost as lengthy as the opening track on Side A and sounds so sharp as it spins. This one is a combination of 'Politely' and 'The Chess Players' before coming into its own style. Once again they let the young and energetic Morgan almost blow up his lungs on this one and sometimes I don't know how they do it. It can be very inspirational as well as relaxing because there are no vocals to hide your mistakes as a jazz player. The listener is focusing so intently on every thing you do. Our daughter is currently changing her routine and going from two naps during the day, to one. Our son would be playing with his monster trucks or construction trucks outside but the weather has been so wet lately. The upside of being stuck inside is you get to catch up on music, movies, books or building cubby houses with the children. My wife built the best cubby house with our son a few weeks ago and looking at the happiness on his face is all that we want. 'Dat Dere' is a thinking song and you'll understand once you start listening to it. Shorter has a hand in this big finish as Timmons sounds like he is playing keys with more than ten fingers. The track slows down and ends with an exclamation mark by the musicians confirming 'Dat Dere' is a statement of the bands intent.
Similar to 'Sakeena's Vision' is the next piece of music called 'Lester Left Town'. For me this one reminds me of Jon Lester (one of my favourite pitchers in MLB who sadly left Boston a number of years ago now). I have looked at our Blue Note collection on the shelves and decided to categorise them by the artist rather than year released, (example - all the albums that have Freddie Hubbard as the lead are all together, rather than spreading them out across the 50s and 60's). I enjoyed the descending tones on this one with Morgan and Merritt now obviously showing off. Blakey hasn't deserted us and he provides his polyrhythmic fills throughout as a reminder. Even though he is the leader of this record, he doesn't feel the need to take over every song and it's a testament to his ego.
'It's Only A Paper Moon' apparently has two versions but only one made it onto this record. Shorter has his moment on this track and it did make me delve into his catalogue once I heard his ability to play the tenor saxophone. This band was also the first American jazz band to play in Japan in 1961 - I missed out on that Blue Note pressing. They just play with so much respect for each other and as our children grow up, I will be using it as an example. It also teaches one of the most undervalued qualities a person can have - Patience. Blakey gets back into the limelight on 'It's Only A Paper Moon' before this upbeat hard bop album comes to an end.
If you enjoyed our 32nd Spin - Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - 'The Big Beat', then make sure to look into their other albums. I wouldn't even bother streaming them before purchasing as they are all of the highest quality - just buy them. The social pages are always open for discussion regarding music. My wife and I really get such a buzz when you all get involved. I hope that this week you found some 'you' time and blocked out all the negative noise that may be in your lives. Thanks for taking the time to read along and see you soon for some more R'nR With Rylo!
Until our next Spin, be Kind jazz drummers and be Kind to your Wax!
I've included a link to see Art Blakey doing what he does best (Click here)
Art Blakey behind the his kit always playing with so much passion and energy