Jazz at 100 Hour 60: The Jazz Messengers Continued

Freddie Hubbard and Curtis Fuller

As the 1960s began Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers were fueled by the compositions of Wayne Shorter with the front line of Shorter and Lee Morgan. In 1961, this transitioned to the last great Messengers lineup of the 1960s – and it was one of the best ever – Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Wayne Shorter on tenor, Cedar Walton on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass, propelled by compositions by Shorter, Fuller, Walton. The 1960s edition of the Jazz Messengers in this hour of Jazz at 100.

“On a broader level, the entire hard-bop movement was … in danger of running out of steam. By 1960, hard bop, in the opinion of historian James Lincoln Collier, ‘had come to a dead end.’ Amiri Baraka, viewing the music from a much different perspective than Collier, reached essentially the same conclusion in his book Blues People: hard bop, ‘sagging under its own weight, had just about destroyed itself’ by the close of the 1950s. It had become ‘a self-conscious celebration of cliché, and an actual debilitation of the most impressive ideas to come out of bebop.’ The ideological distance between these two critics can be gauged by the fact that Collier follows his denunciation of hard bop by praising the superiority of the Dixieland revival, while Jones’s critique is in the context of a paean to free jazz. The fact that they could agree on the degraded state of hard bop, post-1960, is revealing. There may have been debates about the line of succession, but many concurred that the old king was dead. Yet both critics go too far… [Art] Blakey and [Horace] Silver—the two main protagonists in the birth of hard bop—led some of their finest bands during the 1960s.” – Ted Gioia

Like Someone in Love, 1960.
The 1960s began with the last recordings on one of the Jazz Messengers great line-ups with Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter in the front line and with Wayne Shorter hitting his stride as a composer.

Sleeping Dancer Sleep On. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Lee Morgan-tp, Wayne Shorter-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Like Someone In Love. 8/7/1960
Composed by Wayne Shorter

Mosaic, 1961.
“Cedar Walton took the piano seat in a sextet which was a worthy successor to the great quintet in every respect. Shorter was joined in the front line by Hubbard and [trombonist Curtis] Fuller, with the reliable [Jymie] Merritt on bass. The band began recording for Blue Note in the autumn of 1961, and produced two studio albums, the classic Mosaic … and Buhaina’s Delight… Like the previous quintet, the sextet again boasts a productively counter-balanced line-up of soloists, with Shorter’s more labyrinthine deviations contrasting with Hubbard’s fiery impetuosity and Fuller’s fluid but more grounded sobriety, while [Cedar] Walton is a more distinctive and imaginative soloist than either [of his predecessors Bobby] Timmons or [Walter] Davis. The most apparent difference, however, lies in the greater freedom to experiment with ensemble textures and voicings which the expanded horn line-up provided. It was a freedom which Shorter exploited to the full, and the virtues of that combination of greater richness and complexity in the ensemble playing with powerful and inventive soloing can be heard to memorable effect on cuts like Walton’s surging ‘Mosaic’ or Fuller’s exotic ‘Arabia’ from Mosaic…” – Kenny Mathieson

Mosaic. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Curtis Fuller-tb, Wayne Shorter-ts, Cedar Walton-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Mosaic. 10/2/1961
Composed by Cedar Walton

Arabia. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Curtis Fuller-tb, Wayne Shorter-ts, Cedar Walton-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Mosaic. 10/2/1961
Composed by Curtis Fuller

Buhaina’s Delight, 1961.
“[Freddie] Hubbard shared many similarities with his predecessor Morgan. Like Morgan, his trumpet playing was fiery, propelled by insistent rhythms, but also softened by a warm, full tone. Hubbard made greater use of the lyrical potential of the instrument, developing into a stellar ballad player, and offered a slightly more polished alternative to the sometimes rough-and-tumble Morgan. But he built his reputation on his nonpareil mastery of medium and fast tempos, where he stood out as an intimidating player you wouldn’t want to battle at a jam session. An outstanding improviser with solid technique, Hubbard was an ideal choice for Blakey.” – Ted Gioia

Their next LP Buhaina’s Delight opens on the swaggering ‘Backstage Sally’ and leads to Shorter’s stone-faced ’Contemplation.

Backstage Sally. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Curtis Fuller-tb, Wayne Shorter-ts, Cedar Walton-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Buhaina’s Delight. 12/18/1961
Composed by Wayne Shorter

Contemplation. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Curtis Fuller-tb, Wayne Shorter-ts, Cedar Walton-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). From Buhaina’s Delight. 11/28/1961
Composed by Wayne Shorter

Free For All, 1964.
“Shorter’s ‘Free For All’ itself may stand as the perfect exemplar of how much ground this band had covered. It reflects the influence of the modal and free jazz developments of the day, but does so within a conventional 32-bar, AABA form (after the 16-bar vamp introduction). The saxophonist’s opening solo is breathtakingly turbulent, twisting and turning the material through ever increasing degrees of density and abstraction. Fuller’s spiky trombone solo turns down the heat a little, but Hubbard’s pyrotechnic chops restore maximum blast, and Blakey’s polyrhythmic assault completes what is surely the most ‘out’ The Jazz Messengers ever got.” – Kenny Mathieson

Free For All. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Freddie Hubbard-tp, Curtis Fuller-tb, Wayne Shorter-ts, Cedar Walton-p, Reggie Workman-b, Art Blakey-d). From Free For All. 2/10/1964

Soon after Free For All, Freddie Hubbard left the band to pursue a successful solo career and a couple of months later Wayne Shorter joined the Miles Davis Quintet. Thus ended the two-year run of the last great Jazz Messengers line-up until the Marsalis years, a decade and a half later.

This music from The Jazz Messengers belies the revisionist history that suggests that the energy of hard bop was spent by the time the sixties came. In the next hour of Jazz at 100, we will turn to Horace Silver’s terrific 1960s quintets and sextets, featuring trumpeters Blue Mitchell, Carmel Jones and Woody Shaw; tenor players Junior Cook and Joe Henderson and guest trombonist – the veteran – JJ Johnson. The two flagship ensembles of hard bop were alive and well in the 1960s.

Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Like Someone In Love. Blue Note BLP 4245
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Mosaic. Blue Note BLP 4090
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Buhaina’s Delight. Blue Note BLP 4104
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Free For All. Blue Note BLP 4170

Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7 – The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles.
Mathieson, Kenny. 2002. Cookin’: Hard Bop and Soul Jazz 1954-65. Canongate Books.
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers

Annotated playlists and streaming links for all the Jazz at 100 broadcasts: Jazz at 100

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