Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Buhaina’s Delight.

Label: Blue Note Records.

By the time Art Blakey arrived at Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, on the ‘28th’ of November 1961, he had just turned forty-two a month earlier, and had already established a reputation as one of the greatest jazz drummers of his generation. He had started out in the forties in playing in Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine’s big bands, before turning his attention to bebop and playing alongside Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. However, Art Blakey didn’t want to spend all his career working as a sideman, and knew he wanted to lead his own band.

This he would do with great success leading Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers for thirty-five years.  During that time, they released several classic albums including Buhaina’s Delight which has just been reissued by Blue Note Records. It was recorded in late 1961, and was the final album to feature the classic lineup of drummer Art Blakey, bassist Jymie Merritt and pianist Cedar Walton with a front line of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter who left the group after the recording of Buhaina’s Delight. It was the end of an era for the Jazz Messengers whose roots can be traced to 1947.

Fourteen years earlier, on the ‘17th’ of December 1947, twenty-eight year old Art Blakey made his way to WOR Studios,  in New York for what was a day of firsts. He was about to lead a group called Art Blakey’s Messengers in what was his first recording session as a bandleader for Blue Note Records. The new group recorded four tracks, which were later released on two 78s. This was the start of Art Blakey’s recording career with Blue Note Records and was the genesis of the Jazz Messengers.

Art Blakey then  led a big band called Seventeen Messengers briefly  for a while in late-forties, but the group split-up. This wasn’t the last time the Messengers name was used.

When Art Blakey and Horace Silver co-led a new band, they called it the Messengers. However, the name wasn’t used on the band’s earliest recordings. Things changed in 1954.

That was when Horace Silver and Art Blakey used the Jazz Messengers name for the first time.  They were billed as Horace Silver and The Jazz Messengers on the recording that took place at Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, New Jersey, on November the ’13th’ 1954.  That was the name the group adopted for the next year.

By the time the band played at Cafe Bohemia, in New York, on November the ’23rd’ 1955, the band had shortened their name to The Jazz Messengers. However, this would change the following year.

Another change was the departure of trumpeter Kenny Dorham,  who was replaced by Donald Byrd in Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. The newly named band made their recording debut on the ‘5th’ of April 1956, and a new chapter began in the career of Art Blakey.

By 1958, nineteen year old trumpeter Lee Morgan  joined The Jazz Messengers. He was a prodigiously talented musician who had signed to Blue Note Records as a solo artist in 1956 when he was just seventeen. Two years later Lee Morgan made his  Jazz Messengers’ debut on the classic album Moanin’. Over the next few years some of the biggest names in jazz joined the band.

In 1959,  Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ lineup included bassist Jymie Merritt, pianist Bobby Timmons, trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. This lineup was together until 1961 and recorded several albums together including The Big Beat and in 1960 A Night In Tunisia. However, Art Blakey!!!!! Jazz Messengers!!!!! released on September the ‘1st’ 1961 was  Lee Morgan’s swansong for the Jazz Messengers.

Talking his place was twenty-three year old Freddie Hubbard who had played bebop and embraced hard bop and later post bop. He had honed a a distinctive tone which would go on to influence other musicians. However, in 1961 Art Blakey realised that Freddie Hubbard would be the perfect replacement for Lee Morgan.

Another new addition was pianist Cedar Walton who replaced the departing Bobby Timmons. They would make their debut on Mosaic  which was recorded on the ‘2nd’ of October 1961,  at Van Gelder Studio, in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The new lineup of Art Blakey and His Jazz Messengers would return in a month for the first of the Buhaina’s Delight sessions.

For Buhaina’s Delight, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messenger chose six tracks that they were going to record. This included five tracks written by members of the Jazz Messengers. They were Cedar Walton’s Cedar Walton, Curtis Fuller’s Bu’s Delight and Wayne Shorter’s Backstage Sally, Contemplation and Reincarnation Blues. The only cover was Henry Mancini and Johnny Mercer’s Moon River. These tracks became Buhaina’s Delight.

On the ‘28th’ of November 1961 Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers recorded the first Buhaina’s Delight session. Joining drummer Art Blakey was bassist Jymie Merritt and pianist Cedar Walton with a front line of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, trombonist Curtis Fuller and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter. They returned just under a month later on the ‘18th’ of December 1961 to complete the album. However, it wasn’t released until July 1963.

By then, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers had left Blue Note Records and signed to Riverside Records in late 1962. However, one of the last albums he recorded for Blue Note Records, Buhaina’s Delight, was a hard bop classic.

Opening Buhaina’s Delight is Backstage Sally, which made its debut on the 1960 album Big Beat. Straight away, the horns take centrestage as the arrangement becomes upbeat and joyful while the rhythm section lock into a groove and play a shuffle on what’s nowadays regarded as one of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers’ classic tracks. Contemplation is a ruminative sounding track where Wayne Shorter takes the lead. He delivers a stunning tenor saxophone solo on this heartachingly beautiful track. Bu’s Delight bursts into life and is a nine minutes high octane hard bop featuring breathtaking solos from pianist Cedar Walton and bandleader Art Blakey who powers his way round his kit and in doing so, drives his band to greater heights as the track reaches a dramatic ending. 

There’s no stopping Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers now, and from the get-go as the sprightly soundingReincarnation Blues swings. Playing an important role is Jymie Merritt’s walking bass. Then when it’s time for the solos, it’s one of the newcomers trumpeter Freddie Hubbard who steals the show playing with speed, agility and fluidity. However, it’s a close call as pianist Cedar Walton more than plays his part in what’s one of the album’s highlights. From there, there’s a detour via soul-jazz on Shaky Jake is a truly memorable track. Closing the album is Moon River, which is given a makeover and becomes a breathtaking and pulsating slice of hard bop that makes the listener sit up and take notice. Especially when the solos come round and this talented and youthful line of the Jazz Messengers get the chance to shine. And shine they do stretching and other times staggering phrases as drums interject. One of the finest solos comes from from Wayne Shorter. He sets the bar high and newcomers Freddie Hubbard and Cedar Walton as they play their part in the reinvention of this familiar song. It’s the perfect way to close Buhaina’s Delight.

As was often the case with albums recorded for Blue Note Records, Buhaina’s Delight wasn’t released for nearly two years. By then, Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers had left the label and signed with Riverside Records. This seems a strange move as Blue Note Records was one of the premier jazz labels, and by comparison, Riverside Records was a relative newcomer.It had only been founded by Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer in 1953, and turned out to be a relatively short-lived venture.

Tragedy struck in December 1963 when Bill Grauer died after suffering, and seven months later in July 1964 Riverside Records filed for voluntary bankruptcy.

By then, Blue Note Records had released  Buhaina’s Delight in early July 1963, to widespread critical acclaim. It would later be regarded as a classic, and nowadays, is regarded as one of the finest albums  by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers released during the sixties. That is no surprise given the line of the Jazz Messengers.  

Ever since he formed the Jazz Messengers, Art Blakey had an uncanny ability to spot the best young up-and-coming jazz musicians and regardless of their youthfulness or relative inexperience brought them onboard. He recruited Lee Morgan when he was nineteen and when he left, many thought that it would be impossible to replace him.

Art Blakey replaced him with twenty-three year old Freddie Hubbard, which proved to be a masterstroke. And so was recruiting Cedar Walton to replace pianist Bobby Timmons. They had made their Jazz Messengers’ debut on Mosaic, and then came of age on  Buhaina’s Delight playing starring roles. 

Nowadays, the lineup of the Jazz Messengers that features on Buhaina’s Delight is regarded as one of its finest lineups of this ever evolving band, which during its thirty-five year history, featured the great and good of jazz. Art Blakey and The Jazz Messenger’s were prolific and recorded forty-seven studio albums, twenty-one live albums and two soundtracks. However, the time Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers were signed to Blue Note Records resulted in several classic albums including 1959s Moanin’, 1960s  A Night In Tunisia and 1963s Buhaina’s Delight which is truly timeless, and showcases one of the greatest and most influential jazz drummers and his all-star band on what’s undoubtably one of their finest recordings.

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers-Buhaina’s Delight.

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