Following on the heels of our spirited Jazz Messenger release Hard Bop is one of our absolute favorite Art Blakey discs: Drum Suite. Whether he intended to or not, Blakey (along with drummer "Papa" Jo Jones, percussionists Sabu and Candido, pianist Ray Bryant, percussionist Charles Wright, and bassist Oscar Pettiford) invented Afrobeat jazz, spearheading a movement that would bring us Herb Alpert, Joabim Giberto, and many others. Recorded on first take, the three movement suite on side one is a rousing display of drums, congas, piano and bass, with some great shout-chanting thrown in for good measure. The feeling is joyful and assertive, while the incredible musicianship of Blakey and his men tie it all down. Interspersed with the tribal drumming is Bryant bringing the hard be-bop stylings, both throwing off and digging in to the groove simultaneously. Somehow this melange of vastly differing styles works perfectly, creating a work that Steve Leggett of All Music Guide to rave: "groundbreaking for it´s time, and still sounding vital, powerful and visionary. Drum Suite is sort of a lost masterpiece that deserves a fresh audience." Our 180-gram LP was cut by Kevin Gray and Robert Pincus with original analog mono master tapes and without any processing that would keep you from the energy of this rarified experience. Side two contains some outstanding Messengers jams with Blakey´s usual cohorts at the time (Bill Hardman, Jackie McLean, Spanky DeBrest, and Sam Dockery) played with typical fiery abandon. As Blakey told Hardman, "don´t worry about a thing: just wail." Indeed.
Numbered, Limited Edition 180g Vinyl! Limited To 2500 Numbered Copies!
All-Analog Mastering by Kevin Gray! Pressed at RTI!
One of the inventors of the modern bebop style of drumming, Blakey is known as a powerful musician and a vital groover; his brand of bluesy, funky hard bop was and continues to be profoundly influential on mainstream jazz.
For more than 30 years his band, Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers included many young musicians who went on to become prominent names in jazz. Recorded in 1956, Art Blakey's Drum Suite is a wonderful hybrid of African, Latin, and hard bop rhythms that prefigures the concept of Afro-beat by at least a decade. The sheer energy, not to mention its very special and fresh-sounding intimacy, make it especially astounding.
Even more amazing is that the three parts of the suite -- Blakey's "The Sacrifice," Ray Bryant's "Cubano Chant," and Oscar Pettiford's "Oscalypso" -- were recorded straight through live, and were only intended to be a pre-take run-through. As is obvious here, Blakey and company nailed the whole thing right out of the box.
Groundbreaking for its time, and still sounding vital, powerful, and visionary, the Drum Suite album is somewhat of a lost masterpiece that deserves a fresh audience.
"Art Blakey's first release for Columbia Records is essentially two records. Side one is a percussion ensemble playing what would, ten years later, be called Afro-Cuban drumming. Side two is the mid-fifties version of the Jazz Messengers featuring Jackie McLean on saxophone. Side one features Blakey, Jo Jones and Charles Wright on drums, Candido and Sabu on bongos, and Oscar Pettiford and bass and cello. The group plays three compositions, one by Blakey, one by Pettiford and one by Ray Bryant, fusing African, Cuban, and calypso percussion into a well-integrated suite.
"The group recorded a run through and it was so perfectly executed that they used the practice run for the release, unedited except to add some Swahili chants by the percussionists during a few passages. One cannot help but think of Olantunji's Drums of Passion, another Afro drumming landmark, here. Blakey's drum suite was recorded at Columbia's 30th Street studios in New York in 1957 and is in mono. The almost stereoscopic image is truly remarkable. Mastered by Kevin Gray and pressed at RTI, Drum Suite is a valuable record of one of the most important figures in jazz history. Recording: 9/10. Music 9/10." - Dennis Davis, Hifi+
"...The three-part suite was laid down in one take with no arrangements, and begins with a few tympani thwacks followed by an African chant. Soon the ensemble kicks in and the group takes off an a sweaty Afro-Cuban-bop journey that will leave you breathless, as the thing crackles with terrific energy. Side Two is more conventional hard bop, but given this group's mastery of if not invention of the style, these tracks are extremely satisfying. Kevin Gray's remastering is detailed and immediate, with plenty of bit and air, if not the widest dynamic range. For anyone interested in percussion of this genre, this is not to be missed." - Wayne Garcia, The Absolute Sound
Limited To 2500 Numbered Copies!
All-analog mastering by Kevin Gray
Pressed at RTI
Art Blakey, drums
Jackie McLean, alto saxophone
Oscar Pettiford, bass, cello
Spanky DeBrest, bass
Bill Hardman, trumpet
Ray Bryant, piano
Sam Dockery, piano
Charles Wright, drums
Jo Jones, drums
Sabu Martinez, bongos