Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Live in ’58

by | Dec 20, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Live in ’58

Jazz Icons Series
Studio: Reelin’ in the Years Productions/TDK DVWW-JIAB
Video: 4:3, color & B&W
Audio: Dolby Digital mono
Extras: 20-page booklet with rare photos, forward by Art’s son, notes by Michael Cuscuna, and a collage of memorabilia  
Length: 55 minutes  
Rating:  ****

This superb Jazz Icons disc presents a filmed concert from 1958 in Belgium by a quintet that some call the most perfect lineup of a small group in jazz ever.  Jazz legend Blakey is at the drums, the pianist is Bobby Timmons, with Jymie Merritt on bass, and a front line of Benny Golson on sax with trumpet star Lee Morgan – at only 20 the youngest member of the band. The band was only together for six months, and this was filmed just one month after they had made their classic Blue Note recording of Moanin’ – which of course is one of the seven tunes in the concert.

This filmed show was never actually broadcast and the film was forgotten.  The Jazz Icons editor thought the Belgian broadcasting people were sending a tape of a 1965 show featuring Freddie Hubbard, but when he viewed it he reported to the producers “That’s definitely not Freddie Hubbard…”  It turned out to be this filmed concert thought lost, which had been mistakenly labeled as the 1965 show.  Though rather grainy and sometimes a bit washed out, picture quality is serviceable.  The mono sound is excellent.

Blakey does most of the introductions, in a rather formal and stilted style that contrasts with his exciting drumming. All the tunes choices are superb. After Moanin’ comes the recently penned tribute to another great trumpeter – Clifford Brown – I Remember Clifford. Best version of that one I’ve ever heard. Then Golson’s instant hit tune Whisper Not – his hip groove can’t be beat, as in his other hits Along Came Betty, and Killer Joe!  The real final tune is an extended Night in Tunisia, which allows plenty of room for featuring of the band’s “percussion section.” There were probably only a couple cameras for this live concert shoot, and we see the full band in action plenty of times, with the interplay between the members.  Frequent two-shots of Morgan and Golson playing are also provided when appropriate.  The concert seems a bit short, but there’s not a minute of fluff in it – all the tunes are gangbusters and the historic importance of this video cannot be underestimated!

Tracklist: Just By Myself, Moanin’, I Remember Clifford, It’s You Or No One, Whisper Not, A Night in Tunisia, NY Theme.

 – John Henry