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Hard Bop Academy: The Sidemen of "Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers" Hardcover – 1 Nov 2002
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About the Author
Alan Goldsher is the author of 11 books, including that acclaimed Beatles/horror/comedy mashup Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion. As a ghostwriter, he has collaborated with numerous celebrities and public figures. For more information, please visit AlanGoldsher.com.
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An interesting and entertaining look at (in my opinion) the epitome of the jazz scene.
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Goldsher's is the best book-length study on the Messengers that I've seen, devoting as much attention to Schnitter and Hardman as to the more renowned Messengers. The profiles are admittedly short and told from an "outsider's" perspective, but frequently the author nails exactly what's unique about the playing of a Kenny Dorham or Bill Hardman, and in musical terminology that will not exclude the layman.
What remains to be written is a look at the Blakey world from an "insider's" point of view: what it was like to get "up" for each performance, what distinguished, say, an "off" night from an inspired performance, what filled the days while traveling, what personal tensions arose and how they were dealt with, what it was like to feel you had played badly or to anticipate being "terminated."
Although Goldsher's profiles encourage greater appreciation of the hard-edged, professionally "finished" groups of the 60's and 80's, I'm still partial to the richly warm, inventive Mobley ensembles of the 50's and the unsung, exciting "overachievers" of the 70's. Goldsher is one of the few writers to give Walter Davis Jr. his due as a pianist and, especially, composer (though he fails to mention "Backgammon" as well as Mickey Tucker, the gifted pianist who handled Davis' treacherous chordal/rhythmic sequences better than Walter himself).
For the best example of the 70's ensemble along with Davis' extraordinary compositions, there's only one currently available resource: The Jazz Messengers at the Umbria Jazz Festival on DVD. The best examples of the lyrical Mobley Messengers from the 50's is Art Blakey's "The Jazz Messengers" on Columbia (with exceptional ensemble balance and sound that's more spacious and "true" than that of the Blue Note sessions) and Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers "At the Cafe Bohemia" on Blue Note (the combination of Mobley and Kenny Dorham is simply as good as it gets).
After any of the foregoing, the popular "Moanin'" session (my first Blakey recording--memorized, then discarded) sounds merely formulaic, and all of the early 60s Shorter/Morgan/Fuller sessions begin to sound the same.
Blakey was one of the real warriors of the music and his band gave us so many wonderful musicians. The best recommendation for this book is that so many Messengers came out to support this project with interviews and stories about the band and about their relationship with Blakey. Blakey inspires worship, awe, and fear as a musician and a man and that comes through in this book. You do learn a litte bit about some lesser known figures [I'd forgotten Keith Jarrett, Kenny Garrett, and Joanne Brackeen were Messengers] in the band's history.
Mostly this is a great, fun, readable way to learn about the musicians and the leader behind the most legendary long term small group in the history of jazz. I'd recommend this first to fellow drummers, people with a knowledge and interest in small group jazz, and to those listeners who have heard classic albums like "Moanin'", "A Night at Birdland" [w/Clifford Brown], "Free for All", "Album of the Year" and want to put some flesh and meat on the music they heard.
Great man, fun book