Art Blakey And His Jazz Messengers With Sabu: Cu-Bop

Art-Blakey-and-Sabu-LJNIt is curious thing that this album is listed in very few biographical notes about the Jazz Messengers. Perhaps it is a small matter in the greater scheme of things as far as The Jazz Messengers go. But this group was the second incarnation of the legendary group led by Art Blakey. Still, the fact that even Raúl Fernández does not even mention it in Latin Jazz: (The Perfect Combination) is more than plainly curious. There may be a school of thought that it is less Latin-Jazz than other recordings by someone like Machito and Tito Puente may have recorded during the same period. This kind of talk (and I have heard it in rather vaunted company) is hogwash to say the least. Cu-Bop is an album with a very real and visceral rhythmic excitement. To listen to the string of solos on “Sakeena” is something to die for. It is an 11-minute song. Still, I could listen to it over and over again. The exchanges between Mr. Blakey and his guest, Luis “Sabu” Martinez, are riveting. But The Jazz Messengers are making more than just considerably joyous music.

Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers with Sabu - Cu-BopThere is an enigmatic relationship between melodists and harmonists than is obvious at first listen. There is this matter of tonality and even when the language is more linear and austere and there are very few parts where this is so – in Charlie Shavers’ “Dawn on the Desert”. What might become a dry piece is lifted off the page by the passionate advocacy of The Jazz Messengers, who bring tonal refinement to the music here. Refined elements are somewhat lost on the album by the presence of two strong percussionists who would appear to overpower the proceedings. Happily, this does not happen too often. Johnny Griffin and Bill Hardman ensure that every time the spotlight is on the percussionists they retreat into the shadows, but not for long. Elementally beautiful soli by the two interlocutors keep the rhythm of the desert caravan beautifully on Mr. Shavers’ extraordinarily-written piece. Contrapuntal writing always gives way to something more free-flowing and lyrical, and a wider range of sonorities. An outstanding muted solo by Mr. Hardman speaks a language more tonally based, with repetitive rhythmic phrases based around drones which, in turn, sounds quite oriental. Much of the allure, overall, comes from the controlled, spacious performances that rise and fall in ecstatic modal lines.

This is a beautiful album, albeit the fact that it is a mere 35 minutes and 45 seconds long. From the point of view of the history of The Jazz Messengers it represents an important document in the second Jazz Messengers after the “original” Jazz Messengers began recording in 1954, under Art Blakey’s leadership. More than historic relevance, however, this is a joyous recording and well worth exploring whether you are a Jazz Messengers acolyte or just plain curious. No matter who you are, the recording will mesmerise you in its own sweet way.

Track List: Woodyn’ You; Sakeena; Shorty; Dawn On The Desert.

Personnel: Bill Hardman: trumpet; Johnny Griffin: tenor saxophone; Sam Dockery: piano; Jimmy “Spanky” DeBrest: bass; Art Blakey: drums; Luis “Sabu” Martinez: congas.

Label: Jubilee
Release date: May 1957
Website: artblakey.com
Buy music on: amazonPhotograph © Mosaic Images

The Second Messengers: 1956 – 1958

For a brief period in 1956 Donald Byrd stayed on as a new lineup was formed. It included Kenny Drew, Wilbur Ware, Ira Sullivan playing tenor sax in place of his more familiar trumpet. The only contemporary documentation of this version of the Messengers was two tracks backing up singer Rita Reys on The Cool Voice of Rita Reys on Columbia.

Blakey then formed a new lineup that would prove to be much more stable. The most notable name, at the time, was Jackie McLean. He was only 25, but had already recorded with Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. Bill Hardman, Sam Dockery and Jimmy “Spanky” DeBrest filled out the group.

They recorded another record for Columbia: Hard Bop—still under the collective’s moniker The Jazz Messengers. They went on to record for several different labels including RCA subsidiary Vik Records, Pacific Jazz, Elektra, Cadet, Jubilee, Bethlehem and a date on Atlantic featuring Thelonious Monk. Over this time the band’s name evolved to include Blakey’s name, starting with “The Jazz Messengers, featuring Art Blakey” on Ritual, then “Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers” on several records, and also “Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers” on Cu-Bop. Read more…

Raul Da Gama
Based in Milton, Ontario, Canada, Raul is a poet, musician and an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep understanding of music, technically as well as historically.

More from author

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Related posts

FROM OUR VINYL STOREspot_img
FROM OUR VINYL STOREspot_img

Featured Posts

Celebrating Jane Bunnett: Spirits of Havana’s 30th Anniversary

After dark they gather, the spirits of Havana. Is that a ghostly, but fatback-toned rapping down in the barrio where the great composer and...

Piazzolla Cien Años: Lord of the Tango@100

There is a now famous photograph of the great Ástor Piazzolla that is iconic for so many reasons. Chief among them is the manner...

Omara Portuondo, Multifaceted Gem of Cuban Music

My moon app announces that in 14 hours the Supermoon of May will be here. During a full moon I often get inspired to...

Ray Barretto · Barretto Power

Barretto Power: A Celebratory Reissue on its 50th Anniversary It was 1970 when Fania Records released Barretto Power, one of a series of seminal albums...

El Gran Fellové: Part 3- When my Parents…

When my parents bought their home in 1968, Sunset Beach was just another sleepy little beach town It spanned about one mile in length, sandwiched...

El Gran Fellové: Part 2- Enter Chocolate & Celio González

Early Sunday morning… I awoke to the pleasant surprise of a Google Alert in my email. I clicked to find Variety Magazine had published an...

El Gran Fellové: Part 1- The Beginning

Francisco Fellové Valdés (October 7, 1923 – February 15, 2013), also known as El Gran Fellové (The Great Fellove), was a Cuban songwriter and...

Bobby Paunetto, New York City and The Synthesis of Music

Bobby Paunetto was an unforgettable composer, arranger, musician and recording artist. Latin Jazz Network honors him on the tenth anniversary of his death (8.10.10). His...

Jazz Plaza 2020: Ancient to the Future

Chapter four of our series: 35th Jazz Plaza International Festival in Havana In recent months I found myself in profound reflection of the term...

Ray Martinez and the Forgotten Legacy of Jazz

Sometime in the very near future, several of the jazz world's best known writers and musicologists will meet in some obscure conclave to pool...

Join our mailing list

Participate in contests, giveaways and more