Friday, October 11, 2019

Centennial Messenger: Art Blakey 100

The second half of the percussion discussion -- about these two megadrummers born ten years and a single day apart -- is here, and it's a heavy hitter indeed.
Look at him, his drumsticks look like the rods Zeus used to make lightning rain from the heavens.
Yes, today's badass brahmin of the battery was born exactly 100 years ago today. 
He's been dead quite a while, but his influence hasn't waned an iota.
Why, just a few moments ago, another seminal drummer was on my social media feed, offering actual proof that this guy is his favorite since age 8.
There isn't much to say about him, other than of all the bebop trap-kit practitioners, he is far and away the hardest and most visceral pounder of skins.
The band he led for decades was the jumping-off point for who knows how many players, from Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter to Billy Harper and Wynton Marsalis.
The trips are legendary and not always flattering, either. This is someone who tried to control his bandmates with hard drugs, often intentionally addicting them as soon as they joined.
Lee Morgan is probably the poster child: had he never met this cat, he might never have become the player he became... but he also would have likely lived to be older than 33.
But that's just a salacious surface slice of the story... if it bleeds it ledes I guess.
The overarching truth is that the arc of the history of this music, and the trajectory of its development during its most fertile and formative period, would be entirely not the same were it not for Art Blakey.
Sure, he sometimes paid the band in heroin. Who hasn't? At least he paid them, which is more than you could say for many bandleaders and clubowners down the ages.
So how do we commemorate the centennial of this towering figure? How about 3 1/2 hours of him anchoring one of the most star-studded ensembles ever assembled?
The Giants of Jazz
Paris, 1971-72

i.
Théâtre National Populaire
Palais de Chaillot
Paris, France
10.22.1971

01 introduction
02 Blue 'N' Boogie
03 announcement by Dizzy Gillespie
04 'Round Midnight
05 I Mean You
06 Lover Man
07 Woody'n You
08 Wee (Allen's Alley)
09 Blue Monk
10 Tin Tin Deo
11 A Night In Tunisia

Total time: 1:39:31
disc break goes after Track 07

Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet
Kai Winding - trombone
Sonny Stitt - alto & tenor saxophones
Thelonious Monk - piano
Al McKibbon - bass
Art Blakey - drums

digital capture of a 2019 France Musique rebroadcast

ii.
The Giants of Jazz
L'Olympia 
Paris, France
10.27.1972

01 Blue 'N' Boogie
02 Epistrophy
03 Lover Man
04 I Can't Get Started
05 Stardust
06 And Then She Stopped
07 Straight, No Chaser
08 'Round Midnight
09 Dexterity 
10 A Night In Tunisia

Total time: 1:38:43
disc break goes after Track 05

Dizzy Gillespie - trumpet
Kai Winding - trombone
Sonny Stitt - alto & tenor saxophones
Thelonious Monk - piano
Al McKibbon - bass
Art Blakey - drums

digital capture of a 2019 France Musique rebroadcast
FM static noise bursts removed by EN, October 2019

both shows zipped together
1.09 GB FLAC here
These performances speak for themselves, and as a bonus you get a whole boatload of Thelonious Monk tunes -- whose 102nd b'day was only just yesterday -- played by the Maestro himself.
At the end of the day you just thank Providence that there's a France Musique in the world to rebroadcast these monster jams. Something like these would get played, in their entirety like this, on American radio at roughly the time PG&E executives turned off their own power and fled to communes in Marin to grow arugula with a lady who called herself Mountain Mama.
I shall return with some Cream for thy coffee in just a few short daze, but don't miss out on Mr. Blakey here... whatever you might say about the man, you can't say he ain't 100!--J.
10.11.1919 - 10.16.1990