It's hard to believe that this was recorded over fifty years ago, it still sounds as fresh as a daisy.
From Blakey's proud introduction down to the last note this is simply sublime. Those expecting pure Hard Bop will be sorely disappointed, this record offers far more than that. Take, "soft winds," for example. It starts with beautifully languid poise and then starts setting the pulses racing in the middle. This line-up has a dexterity not seen on later Jazz Messangers records. Check out the hugely underrated Kenny Dorham and his hurtling solo at the start of, "The Theme." If that doesn't get you clickling you heels you clearly haven't got a pulse. He repeats this feat on,"Minors Holiday."
Hank Mobley makes a rare Jazz Messangers appearance and his cool bluesy saxaphone adds a smooth lyricism to the record.
"Alone together," is so pure and mellow with the insipidness of Mobley's sax. Four minutes of magic.
A wonderful snappy version of,"lady bird," follows with Blakey's busy rolling drumming driving the track along.
For me this is an essential purchase for Messangers fans because of the unique collection of musicians that make the approach that little bit different to,"A night at Birdland."
The sound quality is excellent and this is great for late-night listening on those balmy summer evenings.
In his autobiography pianist, composer and bandleader Horace Silver asserts that this version of the Jazz Messengers was a cooperative venture, as opposed to drummer Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Silver should know as he's the pianist on both volumes of this title. Presumably the people overseeing the Blue Note catalogue back in 2001 were neither of nor cared about the distinction. On the other hand maybe this reviewer's just being pedantic. Either way it makes no difference to a programme of music which in its way embodies the Hard Bop style of jazz in a way which puts it beyond most of the competition.
But that says both so much and so little at one and the same time. Trumpeter Kenny Dorham, who by the time this set was recorded in 1955 had served in the musical academy that was Charlie Parker's quintet, was never a `hard' player. Instead his rhythmic vitality, as exemplified here by his solo on the up tempo reading of his own "Minor's Holiday" was a product of his insidious relationship with the beat, which when Blakey was providing it was exuberant, virile and only infrequently overbearing.
Tenor sax player Hank Mobley was another of those players saddled with the hard epithet because using it meant not having to think too deeply about his work. It could indeed be argued on the strength of his work on "Lady Bird" alone that he was an exceptionally lyrical musician mining a seam which for all of his ability to work it perhaps effectively offered only a partial insight into what he was capable of. That said he was an individual, not an innovator. The same could be said for the entire band on this one, but their collective ability is so potent that this release documents a band in its prime.
A live recording from late 1955 this is from the early days of the "Jazz Messengers" and features Kenny Dorham (tpt), Hank Mobley (tenor), Doug Watkins (b) and, of course, Art Blakey (d). Although from the hard bop era, this is not limited to that idiom throughout. There is a range of tempos: fast, slow, jazz 4/4, latinesque etc. Everyone is on top form but to my ears it is Horace Silver who takes the limelight. I have always admired Hank Mobley and his playing here is excellent throughout. Likewise Dorham, Watkins and Blakey. I am a great fan of "live" performances. I think that audiences bring out the best in performers who invariably play better than in the sterie atmosphere of the recording studio. It is certainly true here.