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As a smooth jazz journalist, I sincerely support the smooth jazz genre, as I adore the sound and recognize the diligence and hard work artists and musicians place into their craft.

  sheila e ross

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Jazz Reviews on JazzNet247 Radio Europe

Artist : Art Blakey

Album : Moanin'

Year : 1958

Label : Blue Note

art bakey

: Art Blakey : Drums | Lee Morgan : Trumpet | Benny Golson : Saxophone | Bobby Timmons : Piano | Jymie Merrit : Bass

Arthur Blakey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919 and made a name for himself in the big bands of Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine.

He started playing piano at an early age and was making music a full time career by the time he was in seventh grade. However he switched to playing drums in the 1930's, one 'tongue-in-cheek' story was that a club owner ordered him at gunpoint to switch from the piano to drums to allow Errol Garner to play the piano.

His drumming style was an agressive 'swing style' à la Chuck Webb, Sid Catlett or Ray Bauduc which was very much the predominant style at that time.

Between 1939 and 1944 he played with fellow Pittsburgh native Mary Lou WIlliamson and moved to New York in 1942 to perform and followed on touring with the Fletcher Henderson Orchestra. During this time he was involved in a fight which resulted in him being declared 'unfit for national service' in World War II.

From 1944 to 1947 he worked with the Billy Eckstine Band which led himself and others, such as Miles Davis, Dexter Gordon, Fats Navarro, Charlie Parker, and Dizzy Gillespie into the Be-Bop era.

In the mid-1950s Horace Silver and Art then formed the Jazz Messengers, a group that the drummer was to be associated with for the next 35 years.

Recorded in the Rudy Van Gelder studios in New York in 1958, Moanin' was an album which captured beautifully the essence of that musical era. It repesents one of the finest examples of Hard Bop, a style which was to reinforce the roots of jazz in blues, gospel and funk. It also captures a quintet with a stratospheric level of talent in dazzling form which included Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jymie Merrit on bass and Art on drums. Blue Note boss Alfred Lion was the producer.

Although Lee Morgan was only 20 years old he had a spectacular technique and an explosive style together with the ability to infuse every solo with the blues. He would go on to record seven albums as a band leader, but his life was cut short at just 33 years of age after being shot by his common law wife Helen More. Bobby Timmons was just 23 himself and came from a blues and gospel background and his style was reminiscent of Horace Silver

Jymie Merrit was a very experienced rhythm sideman and together with Blakey formed a powerful rhythm section which allowed the soloist a solid grounding from which to perform. Benny Golson was a sensational soloist and combined passion and sopihistication, he was also a talented composer and arranger in his own right.

The album consists of six tracks, the title track 'Moanin', which was a huge hit in its own right, four original compositions by Benny Golson which follow the opening track :- 'Are You Real', 'Along Came Betty', 'The Drum Thunder Suite', and 'Blues March' and it ends with a Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer version of 'Come Rain Or Come Shine'. The latter was the only non-original track on the album and was written for the 1946 musical 'St. Louis Woman'.

'Come Rain Or Come Shine'
was normally played as a ballad, but Golson arranges it at a moderate tempo, giving it a strong rhythmic drive. A succession of fine solos, and in particular one played by Timmons based entirely on block chords, dense ones played with both hands in parallel with the melody, brings this masterpiece to a conclusion.

Art Blakey was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1981, the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998 and 2001, and was awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005. He was inducted into the Modern Drummer Hall Of Fame in 1991.

My personal favourite on this album is the wonderful 'Along Came Betty', if you haven't heard this yet I encourage you to do so.

As a marketer myself, Moanin' is the result of a fortunate combination of factors, it was the 'right record' released at the 'right time' capturing a band made up of 'stellar musicians' who were on' top form' and featured a list of 'excellent tracks'. It is a rarity in any walk of life when all these factors come together ^

Review by Wes George
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