Tune in to the Jazz Show with Gavin Walker every Monday night,
This Merry month of May drummer/leaders are in the spotlight for The Jazz Feature. Tonight we begin with one of the great bandleaders and also one of the pivotal drummers in Jazz History: Art Blakey. Mr. Blakey’s relentless swing and drive were behind many editions of his Jazz Messengers and there were innumerable editions of the Messengers over the years spanning decades. This edition was recorded live at San Francisco’s legendary club,The Keystone Korner in January 1982.. This was a very special edition of The Jazz Messengers as both a young phenomenal trumpet star named Wynton Marsalis was about to depart having played with Blakey for about two years. Blakey’s regular alto saxophonist had departed and Wynton’s older (by one year) brother Branford joined the band on alto saxophone. This is the only recording of the two brothers with Blakey because not long after this they departed to form their own band. Both sound at the top of their game playing with Mr. Blakey. The others are tenor saxophone master Bill Pierce, pianist Donald Brown and bassist Charles Fambrough who also would leave soon to join the Marsalises. The band is on fire and is captured beautifully on this recording called “Keystone 3”.
Tony Williams was the young genius of the drums and sadly died at age 51 of a heart attack. Tony was a prodigy and at 17 joined Miles Davis and revitalized Miles’ music. Tony appeared as a sideman with many people as well on recordings. He made two very adventurous albums for Blue Note and tonight, The Jazz Feature spotlights his second for that label called “Spring”. The album consists of 5 Williams compositions. One of those is a drum solo. The people involved with Tony are tenor saxophonists Wayne Shorter and Sam Rivers. Both are adventurous improvisers. Herbie Hancock is on piano and the great Gary Peacock is on bass. Tony was 19 when this album was done in August of 1965 and the music is very much ahead of it’s time and yet rooted in Jazz tradition. It is an important musical statement from someone who possessed genius, Tony Williams.
One of the most innovative and influential drummers in Jazz was Elvin Jones. Most of us know Elvin through his extensive work with John Coltrane as he was the driving force in Coltrane’s “Classic Quartet”. After leaving Coltrane, Elvin embarked on his own career working with small groups. One of his finest ensembles will be tonight’s Jazz Feature. Elvin leads a trio made up of the late great Joe Farrell on tenor and soprano saxophone and alto flute and piccolo and Jimmy Garrison on bass. This incredible trio driven hard by Elvin’s drums creates a rich and varied sound despite the spare instrumentation. The album was issued on Blue Note Records and called “Puttin’ It Together”….and they do!
Last on our selected four drum masters is Arthur Taylor. Mr. Taylor was one of the most widely recorded drummers and played and recorded with literally everyone of importance in Jazz from Charlie Parker to Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane to name only a few. Mr Taylor was also an author of one of the best Jazz books called “Notes and Tones”. Mr. Taylor, tiring of the racism in the USA left for Europe in 1963 and spent nearly 25 years there before returning home to Harlem to take care of his ailing Mother. He took many playing gigs upon his return but most importantly formed a band made up of young energetic players and called it “Taylor’s Wailers”. The band made two fine recordings and tonight we’ll hear their first called “Mr. A.T.” The band consists of two fine saxophonists: Willie Williams on tenor and Abraham Burton on alto. They blend very well and get a big full sound together. Marc Cary is on piano and Tyler Mitchell is on bass. All of these men are in their early 20’s and all are driven by the dynamic drumming of Mr. A.T. who was 62 at the time of this date. Unfortunately Mr. Taylor died of cancer in February of 1995 at age 65 and we lost a powerhouse of the drums but he’s very much alive on this recording. Mr. A.T. lives!