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Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers With Thelonious Monk Extra tracks, Original recording remastered

4.4 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Audio CD, Extra tracks, Original recording remastered, February 16, 1999
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Editorial Reviews

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In 1957 Thelonious Monk still lived at the edges of acceptance by a larger jazz audience, and Art Blakey's signature group was in the midst of a long formative phase. With Bill Hardman's cutting, raw-edged trumpet and Johnny Griffin's gruff and coiling tenor, Blakey's band was a looser, less defined, but more intense unit than it would become later with in-house composers like Benny Golson, Bobby Timmons, and Wayne Shorter. When Blakey and Monk, longtime friends and associates, made this date playing some of Monk's core material, the Messengers became virtually a Monk ensemble and one of the most inspired to record. A year later, Griffin would be a regular member of Monk's quartet, and this disc demonstrates why. --Stuart Broomer
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (February 16, 1999)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Format: Extra tracks, Original recording remastered
  • Label: Atlantic
  • ASIN: B00000HZF0
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #388,219 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Audio CD
This is one of those wonderful encounters that crisply exhibit the fertility of jazz. Art Blakey's bands were among the most swinging units of the 50s, admired for their tight orchestrations and sheer command of their material. Monk had been recording his own works for Riverside with highly creative, complex musicians, assembled by Orrin Keepnews.
The March 1957 recording with Art Blakey is an unqualified masterpiece. The startling uniqueness of Monk's compositions emerges out of a fascinating dialogue between himself and Blakey. Johnny Griffin contributes one composition to the date, "Purple Shades". "In Walked Bud" contains some of Blakey's most creative drumming: rolls so brief and dense they flutter like whispers, sharp rimshots that accentuate the contours of Monk's ideas, a pulse that is implied more by space between identifiable sonic events than by sounds themselves. A similarly magical treatment is afforded to "Evidence", "Blue Monk" and "I Mean You". The timelessness of this recording lies in its ability to create a synthesis of the origins of jazz in blues motifs and an authoritative development of these motifs into a new, modern music. Johnny Griffin is on sparkling form, spurred by the driving rapport between Monk and Blakey, delivering solos of considerable intensity and originality.
This record is what modern jazz in the 50s was all about. It predated many of the rhythmic and harmonic "innovations" of the following decade, and still today sets extremely high standards for contemporary jazz.
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Format: Audio CD
I purchased this recording because of the presence of its three forceful and virtuosic if not indomitable hard-bop players--Blakey, Griffin, and the underrated Hardman. Moreover, with Blakey at the controls, you expect the music to be hard-driving, soulful and funky-- regardless of who the other personnel are (not to mention the date being under the Jazz Messengers' name).
The surprise, possibly even for some Monk fans: nobody upstages, detracts from, plays over or by Thelonious, whose session this is from beginning to end. His irresistible, indelible stamp is on every bar of every tune, which he achieves as much by laying out as by constructing weird, off-balance voicings and elliptical, serendipitous melodic motifs. By slowing practically every tempo down to his favorite groove--somewhere south of "medium" tempo--he gives himself necessary creative space while forcing the other three to fill space with pyrotechnics--but never leaving any doubt about who the ringmaster is.
This is as enjoyable a Monk session as any I've heard (even if it's very atypical Messengers' music). Just be forewarned that the piano is out of tune (which Monk exploits in all registers), and the stereo separation on my copy is so ridiculously extreme that Thelonious Sphere seems to be occupying (literally) another sonic sphere. In fact, the only way I found to appreciate the album, and fully "hear" the music, was to mix the two channels into a monophonic signal (not possible, unfortunately, with many machines).
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Format: Audio CD
When I first heard this classic album I became fascinated by the collaboration between Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk. This is communication on the highest level possible. You can wake me up in the middle of the night to listen to I Mean You or Rhythm-a-Ning. Just the way Blakey & Monk seem to "feed" ideas to Bill Hardman - who's way below the level of B&M - is something I can listen to for as long as I live. And then there's Johnny Griffin, a Monk player as good as Charlie Rouse ever was. This new CD is such a big improvement; at last there is the balance that was sadly missing in the original longplay album. If you ever want to understand and appreciate the real genius of B&M, get this one - and listen to it, study it, enjoy it.
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Format: Audio CD
Here is another CD remaster that is worlds better than what it replaces. The original CD of this album had Monk in one channel, the Messengers in the other channel, with everyone muffled by dim sound. Apparently they didn't do that one from the original masters.
This time they got it right. The sound is much more present, and it's in high-quality mono rather than the annoying "stereo" of the previous release. You can ever hear the bass this time! Rhythm-a-Ning is a personal favorite of mine since we played an arrangement of it in my college jazz band, but in any event this is a top notch collaboration between Monk and Blakey.
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Format: Audio CD
It seems that every album Monk's on as a sideman has the same songs. You know, Blue Monk, Rhythm A Ning, Off Minor, Epistrophy, etc. But, they work in this album. Monk's style went good with Blakey behind him. I don't know why, but it does. I guess you just need that forcefull playing behind Monk. This wasn't the first time Blakey and Monk played together, but it sure was a good one!
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Format: Audio CD
In the late spring of 1957, Thelonious Monk was invited to join Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers for an album largely of his compositions-- it was a productive time for Monk, a month after a guest spot with Sonny Rollins and the solo piano recording "Thelonious Himself" and a month before the sessions that would yield "Monk's Music". Blakey, for his part, was an established leader by this point, his Jazz Messengers revitalizing the New York bop scene and maintaining a busy recording schedule as a sideman, including sessions with Monk under the leadership of the pianist, Miles Davis, Gigi Gryce and Sonny Rollins. With Monk sitting at the piano chair in place of Sam Dockery, Blakey and the Messengers (tenorman Johnny Griffin, trumpeter Bill Hardman and bassist Spanky DeBrest), an added layer of tension would be added to the Jazz Messengers' sound.

Infusing Monk's music with a healthy dose of hardbop has an odd effect-- with the Jazz Messengers' proclivity towards blues and gospel sounds readily apparent, Monk sometimes sounds oddly out of place on his own compositions, particularly beneath Hardman, who he seems to have a limited rapport with. On the other hand, as Griffin rails away in exploratory fashion, Monk seems inclined to hold the theme close in his accompaniment.

The net result-- regardless of the heavyweight billing of this record and the consistent praise levied upon it by everyone, it's a pretty mixed performance-- the five Monk pieces all get reasonable readings and at times are superlative (opener "Evidence" bristles with energy, "I Mean You" evokes gospel and stride traditions in a way quite unlike anything else) but at times, Blakey's vision seems to get in the way of the piece's strengths ("Rhythm-a-ning").
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