Naxos of America, Inc. and T2 Entertainment have announced the release of a second CD from The Sesjun Radio Shows archives. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – The Sesjun Radio Shows is set to be released on April 12, 2011.
While listening to an advance copy of this double CD, I gleaned a few things. Art Blakey’s long-standing tradition of discovering and developing new talent is very evident in these recordings. The gradual maturation of certain musicians is also apparent in the recordings, which span a 5-year period of the late 70s into the early 80s.
The recordings were made in 1978, 1980 and finally 1983 on the Dutch Sesjun Radio Shows. Alto saxophonists Bobby Watson and Donald Harrison are featured separately. David Schnitter, Billy Pierce and Jean Toussaint make appearances on tenor saxophone. In addition to some talented young saxophonists, Blakey features a young rhythm section with Charles Fambrough and Dennis Irwin on bass, Johnny O’Neal and a talented James Williams on piano. Trumpeters Valery Ponomarev and Terence Blanchard get the nod from Blakey as well.
Tracks 1-6 on CD 1 were recorded on November 14, 1978 at “De Speeldoos.” Watson is featured prominently on the ballad Stairway To The Stars. James William’s bluesy Dr. J also proves to be a great catalyst for spirited solos from Ponomarev, Pierce and Williams.
The ensemble remained nearly unchanged on the May 1, 1980 recording done at “Nick Vollebregt’s Jazzcafé.” There were two exceptions. Billy Pierce replaced Schnitter on tenor sax and Charles Fambrough was on bass. The 1980 recording is split between CD1 and CD2.
On CD 2 one highlight for me is Billy Pierce’s aggressive solo on Blakey’s signature Blues March. Tenor saxophonist Jean Toussaint is only featured on a few final cuts, however he clearly demonstrates he is worth a closer listen. Donald Harrison’s star also begins to shine brightly on the later cuts recorded in 1983. We must give some love to trumpeter Terence Blanchard for his contributions. His trumpet speaks beautifully throughout and particularly with harmon mute on Polkadots and Moonbeams.
There are times when the various transformations of Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers sound strong and confident. There are also times when the young soloists sound as if they are working it out right on stage. Whatever the case, the group under the watchful eye of Art Blakey, always swings hard. This is a great window into the “University of Blakey” and some of its young students of jazz.