Top critical review
5 people found this helpful
on November 21, 2006
Out of the 40-50 Blakey albums I've collected, this is the most "arranged," with the exception of the early "Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers" on Columbia, featuring the compositions and arrangements of Silver and Mobley along with masterful solo work by Mobley and Byrd. Moreover, the five-piece ensemble is so well mixed, it sounds like a mini-big band, exhibiting rare cohesion and group dynamics throughout along with an ideal balance between ensemble passages and solos.
By comparison, "Caravan" is a less satisfying album, with arrangements that sound overly busy, forced, occasionally awkward, and solos that are often spotty and choppy. Hubbard is in rare form, beginning with the title piece, but he's interrupted by a pedestrian Shorter solo just as he's hitting his stride--a pattern that continues throughout the session. Fuller always sounds so close to J. J. as to invite comparisons, which do the former no favors. His tone, articulations, and ideas are always a step behind, contributing little to the overall effectiveness of the ensemble.
Another problem with this session is the sound. Separation is extreme to the point of being annoying, making each of the individual horns sound like they're in separate recording studios. The piano sounds distant, and the bass so muffled I'm reminded of some of the '40's Parker recordings. This was not an especially encouraging new start for Blakey after the many distinguished recordings--on location as well as in the studio--by Blakey and the Messengers in the mid to late fifties--one of the reasons, I'm constantly searching for Blakey recordings, as scarce as they may be, by the underrated and neglected but mighty Messianic Messengers of the seventies. (I'm usually getting them from England, Holland, Japan, and frequently on LP--a bit of a hassle but well worth it once you've connected with the special spirit that Blakey, Hardman, Schnitter, along with the compositions of Walter Davis Jr. brought to the table.)