52 tracks of jazz for 2021. 40. “In case you missed it” – Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, Album of the year, 1981 – News, reviews, articles and comments from the London jazz scene and beyond of the


Jon Turney’s 40th Weekly Pick comes from Art Blakey’s latest list of up-and-coming stars.

This album, with its teasing and ambiguous title (is this your album of the year, or did the Messengers do one more recording yet?) And decidedly lackluster cover design, looked bleak. But when the needle hit, it was pretty special. It was Art Blakeystrongest late-career roster of – all pretty much every under 30, with Wynton marsalis the baby of the group, and altoist Bobby watson as musical director. All including Billy Pierce in tenor, James williams at the piano and Charles Fambrough on bass – were some of the best the drummer had ever recruited.

They are all captured early, jostled, goaded and cajoled by the leader’s drums, as this Watson tune illustrates.

It’s a quick, no-nonsense affair – typical Messengers material – allowing Blakey to make full use of his rich accented repertoire to stimulate soloists. Watson’s just-acidic enough viola likely wins solo honors here, preceded by Pierce. Young Wynton, in his only studio date with the Messengers, isn’t too bad either, and Williams has taste too. Aside from the solos, the collective transmits such joy when the ensemble plays together. Old-school acoustic jazz never went away, but 40 years ago it seemed to have a new lease of life.

Listen to this song on Spotify

More information about this recording on Jon’s Bristol Jazz Log

Read Jon’s introduction to the “52 tracks” series

Week 39. Looks like there is a life – Bill Bruford

Spotify playlist for the series

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