Art Blakey's Jazz Messenger With Thelonious Monk (1958)
The best format to get this essential title is the 1999 Rhino Records CD reissue from their Atlantic Jazz Gallery series. Not only have the half-dozen sides from the original 1958 release been thoroughly remastered, but the amended and enhanced running order also contains a trio of otherwise unavailable alternate takes of Monk standards "Evidence," "Blue Monk," and "I Mean You." Otherwise, Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk (1958) is a timeless meeting of the masters. Art Blakey (drums) and his Jazz Messengers — which concurrently include Johnny Griffin (tenor sax), Bill Hardman (trumpet), and Spanky Debrest (bass) — face off with Monk during one of the pianist's most creative and fruitful eras. With such a voluminous back catalog of seminal bop compositions, it is fitting that a majority of the album's material stems from Monk. Each of the performances is given extra emphasis, with both co-leaders unleashing their own respective instrumental articulations behind the equally impressive and expressive Jazz Messengers. Right out of the gate, Hardman's solos during "Evidence" provide a powerful introduction into Monk's slightly off-center piano gymnastics. While they never go directly head to head, each musician is clearly inspired by the other's intensity, as they likewise fuel the freewheelin' and hypnotic rhythm of "In Walked Bud." Blakey's firm hold on the combo can be felt as he unleashes a percussive torrent to commence a woozy "Blue Monk." The lackadaisical melody saunters through some adeptly executed changes from Monk with the Jazz Messengers following an effortless and unyielding swing that slices through the heart of the score. One unquestionable highlight is the frisky "Rhythm-A-Ning," sporting the inimitable brass augmentations and co-leads of Griffin and Hardman. The quirky yet catchy chorus bounces from the dual-lead horn section with the entire arrangement tautly bound by the understated Debrest and Blakey. Griffin's "Purple Shades" is a smartly syncopated blues that is more of a musical platform for the Jazz Messengers than for Monk. That said, the pianist provides an opening solo that alternately shimmers and shudders. Again, Debrest as well as Griffin and Hardman demonstrate their own pronounced capabilities over Monk's otherwise occasional counterpoint...
1. "Evidence" (Thelonious Monk) - 6:46 2. "In Walked Bud" (Monk) - 6:39 3. "Blue Monk" (Monk) - 7:54 4. "I Mean You" (Monk & Coleman Hawkins) - 8:02 5. "Rhythm-A-Ning" (Monk) - 7:20 6. "Purple Shades" (Johnny Griffin) - 7:48 7. "Evidence" [alternate take] (Monk) - 5:30 Bonus track on 1999 CD reissue 8. "Blue Monk [alternate take] (Monk) - 6:59 Bonus track on 1999 CD reissue 9. "I Mean You" [alternate take] (Monk, Hawkins) - 7:34 Bonus track on 1999 CD reissue
* Art Blakey - drums * Thelonious Monk - piano * Johnny Griffin - tenor saxophone * Bill Hardman - trumpet * Spanky DeBrest - bass
The album was produced by Nesuhi Ertegün and engineered by Earl Brown.
"Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don't live it, it won't come out your horn. They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But, man, there's no boundary line to art." - CHARLIE PARKER