Art Blakey an his Jazz Messengers were the quintessential hard bop ensemble. Their music was rooted in the core elements of “swing” and “blues”.
Blakey helmed a rehearsal band known as the 17 Messengers for a time before travelling to Africa at the end of the 1940s, studying Islam and taking the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. After his return to the states, he formed a co-op quintet, the Jazz Messengers, with pianist Horace Silver in the mid-1950s; additional original members were Hank Mobley on sax, Kenny Dorham on trumpet, and Doug Watson on bass.
After Silver left the group in 1956, Blakey took over leadership, simultaneously fostering a relationship with the Blue Note label that yielded a rich array of recordings over several years, such as At the Jazz Corner of the World series, Buhaina’s Delight (1962) and Free for All (1964). And albums for the Riverside label during this era included Caravan (1962) and Ugetsu (1963), recorded at Birdland.
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.
The Messengers had became a mainstay on the jazz club circuit. They toured Europe, with forays into North Africa. In 1960, the Messengers became the first American Jazz band to play in Japan.
Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Volkshaus, Zurich, Switzerland, December 4, 1958.
Blakey assumed an aggressive swing style of contemporaries Chick Webb, Sid Catlett and Ray Bauduc early in his career, and is known, alongside Kenny Clarke and Max Roach as one of the inventors of the modern bebop style of drumming.
Les liaisons dangereuses (Dangerous Liaisons) is a 1959 French film, loosely based on the 1782 novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos, though is set in present-day France. It was directed by Roger Vadim, and stars Jeanne Moreau, Gerard Phillipe, and Annette Vadim. The film’s score was composed and performed by Thelonious Monk, with additional music for the extended party scene by Jack Marray (an alias for Duke Jordan) which was performed by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers with Barney Wilen. The soundtrack, featuring only those tracks recorded by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers with Barney Wilen, was originally released on the French Fontana label. The tracks by Thelonious Monk have never been released commercially.
Art Blakey with his wife in Milan, Italy, 1968.