Jazz at 100 Hour 40: Sons of the Jazz Messengers (1956 – 1964)

Wayne Shorter – Art Blakey – Lee Morgan

In 1956, with Horace Silver’s departure, Art Blakey inherited the Jazz Messengers. Over the next five years, the Jazz Messengers took part in recording sessions that have resulted in almost 40 live and studio recordings. Also in this period, Blakey collaborated with players who became the stars of Hard Bop. In this hour, we will hear from just some of these players – trumpeters Kenny Dorham and Lee Morgan, pianist Bobby Timmons and tenor saxophonists Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter. Other band members, such as Donald Byrd, Benny Golson, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean and Johnny Griffin will contribute to future programs in this series.

Kenny Dorham.
Kenny Dorham played trumpet with Charlie Parker in the late 1940s, another in a series of more introspective melodists (such as Miles or Chet Baker) that Bird chose as his front line partner. Dorham played with the Jazz Messengers in 1953 and again from 1954 – 1955 and, with tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley became important composers for the group after the departure of Horace Silver.

“Dorham was never a killer technically in the manner of Dizzy Gillespie or Clifford Brown. But along with Miles Davis and Art Farmer, he had helped define an area of melodic invention and tonal nuance that greatly broadened the trumpet’s range of expression.” – David Rosenthal

In 1956 he recorded a classic live date from the Café Bohemia, projecting what Brian Morton and Richard Cook call (in the Penguin Jazz Guide), “a slightly brooding, intensely thoughtful atmosphere.” His group, the Jazz Prophets included fellow Messenger, Bobby Timmons on piano and JR Monterose on tenor. Monterose had “a slightly tight, almost strangled tone, delivered before and behind the beat, often in successive measures, thin but curiously intense and highly focused.” (Morton & Cook)

Autumn in New York. Kenny Dorham and The Jazz Prophets
(Kenny Dorham-tp, Bobby Timmons-p, Sam Jones-b, Arthur Edgehill-d). From ‘Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia. 5/31/1956

Monaco. Kenny Dorham and The Jazz Prophets
(Kenny Dorham-tp, J.R. Monterose-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Sam Jones-b, Arthur Edgehill-d). From ‘Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia. 5/31/1956
Composed by Kenny Dorham.

Hank Mobley.
After three years with Max Roach, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley played with Art Blakey from 1954 – 1956 and again in 1959, when he preceded Wayne Shorter. “He had his own sophisticated style, with a velvety tone that hangs like a veil over his long, seemingly self-perpetuating lines.” (Joachim-Ernst Berendt)

In 1960, he recorded a masterpiece, Soul Station. “Hank seldom took ballads at a crawl, preferring a kind of lazy mid-tempo, and ‘If I Should Lose You’ is one of his best. ‘Dig Dis’ is a top example of how tough he could sound without falling into bluster; here … one can follow closely how much he took from the masters of the swing generation, almost as if he prefers not to phrase like a bopper at all, even as he inhabits that idiom. It’s a terrific record, and a virtually perfect example of a routine date made immortal by master craftsmen.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

If I Should Lose You. Hank Mobley Quartet
(Hank Mobley-ts, Wynton Kelly-p, Paul Chambers-b, Art Blakey-d). From Soul Station. 2/7/1960

Dig Dis. Hank Mobley Quartet
(Hank Mobley-ts, Wynton Kelly-p, Paul Chambers-b, Art Blakey-d). From Soul Station. 2/7/1960
Composed by Hank Mobley

Lee Morgan.
After starting, as Dizzy’s protégé, with Gillespie’s Big Band, Morgan played with Blakey between 1958 and 1965, in two tours bracketing Freddie Hubbard. Ted Gioia (The History of Jazz) describes Morgan as “an impassioned improviser and, in many ways, the quintessential hard-bop trumpeter. There was no brass player better able to extract the maximum amount of emotional energy from the bluesy minor-key groove numbers that characterized the new sound.”

“After leaving Blakey in 1961, Morgan recorded extensively as a leader for the Blue Note label and achieved a major success with his 1963 staccato funk outing “The Sidewinder,” which eventually reached number twenty-five on the Billboard chart. Morgan spent much of the rest of his career trying to recreate this winning formula, although he was also capable of probing, less jukebox-friendly artistic statements, such as Search for the New Land, an exquisite release recorded only a few weeks after ‘The Sidewinder.’” – Ted Gioia

Hocus-Pocus. Lee Morgan Quintet
(Lee Morgan-tp, Joe Henderson-ts, Barry Harris-p, Bob Cranshaw-b, Billy Higgins-d). From Sidewinder. 12/21/1963
Composed by Lee Morgan.

The Joker. Lee Morgan Sextet
(Lee Morgan-tp, Wayne Shorter-ts, Herbie Hancock-p, Grant Green-g, Reggie Workman-b, Billy Higgins-d). From Search for a New Land. 4/15/1964.
Composed by Lee Morgan.
After the full chested tenor playing from Joe Henderson on Hocus Pocus, note the more pinched legato of Wayne Shorter on The Joker.

Bobby Timmons.
From 1956 to 1959, Bobby Timmons played piano with the Jazz Messengers, contributing several catchy lines to the book. “‘Dat Dere’ and ‘Moanin’’ between them guarantee Timmons a bit of jazz immortality. He also gave Art Blakey a hit [with Moanin’] and probably helped secure the Messengers’ long tenure of hard bop. His characteristic style was a rolling, gospelly funk, perhaps longer on sheer energy than on harmonic sophistication.” – Brian Morton & Richard Cook

So catchy were his melodies that Oscar Brown Jr. wrote lyrics to ‘Dat Dere attracting interpretations by singers from Mel Torme to Rickie Lee Jones and “Moanin’” was given lyrics by Jon Hendricks.

Dat Dere. Bobby Timmons Trio
(Bobby Timmons-p, Ron Carter-b, Albert “Tootie” Heath-d). From In Person. 10/1/1961
Composed by Bobby Timmons.

Wayne Shorter.
Wayne Shorter spent four years with the Jazz Messengers then went on to significant contributions to Miles Davis’s Second Great Quintet and Weather Report. “The addition of saxophonist Wayne Shorter [in time for the 1960 release, The Big Beat]… initiated a new expansion in the scope of the band, which was solidified by the arrival of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and pianist Cedar Walton in 1961. Shorter’s elliptical manner of improvising and composing would come to exert a decisive influence on the Messengers, signaling a break with the rhythm-and-blues orientation of the Morgan-Timmons-Golson unit… Already a solid soloist, Shorter blossomed as a composer during his Blakey years. “This is for Albert,” “Lester Left Town,” “Children of the Night,” and other Shorter contributions bespoke a far greater sophistication than the rhythm-and-blues-influenced numbers that had dominated Blakey’s late 1950s repertoire.” – Ted Gioia

Lester Left Town. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
(Lee Morgan-tp, Wayne Shorter-ts, Bobby Timmons-p, Jymie Merritt-b, Art Blakey-d). For The Big Beat. 3/6/1960
Composed by Wayne Shorter

Blue Note records started in 1939 with sessions by boogie-woogie pianists Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, and Pete Johnson and New Orleans revival players like Sidney Bechet. With Horace Silver and all the artists played in the past hour on its roster, Blue Note became synonymous with Hard Bop in the decade following 1955. Other than the one Bobby Timmons cut, on Riverside, all the music presented in this hour was recorded for and released by Blue Note Records.

Composer/saxophonists Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce both contributed briefly to the Jazz Messengers, but their greater legacy comes from the gentle, thoughtful elegance of their music with groups like the the Jazztet – Golson’s sextet with trumpeter Art Farmer, and Gryce’s quintets with Farmer. In his book, Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965, David Rosenthal describes them as The Lyricists and they will be featured in the next hour of Jazz at 100.

Kenny Dorham – ‘Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia. Blue Note BLP 1524
Hank Mobley – Soul Station. Blue Note BLP 4031
Lee Morgan – Sidewinder. Blue Note BLP 4157
Lee Morgan – Search for the New Land. Blue Note BLP 4169
Bobby Timmons – In Person. Riverside RLP 391
Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers – The Big Beat. Blue Note BLP 4029

Berendt, Joachim-Ernst. 2009. The Jazz Book: From Ragtime to the 21st Century. Chicago Review Press.
Giddins, Gary & DeVeaux, Scott. 2009. JAZZ. New York, NY. WW Norton & Company.
Chapter 12. Cool Jazz and Hard Bop
Gioia, Ted. 2011. The History of Jazz. New York. Oxford University Press.
Chapter 7. The Fragmentation of Jazz Styles
Morton, Brian & Cook, Richard. 2011. Penguin Jazz Guide, the History of the Music in the 1001 Best Albums. New York, NY. Penguin Books.
Kenny Dorham – ‘Round About Midnight At The Cafe Bohemia
Hank Mobley – Soul Station
Lee Morgan – Sidewinder
Lee Morgan – Search for the New Land
Bobby Timmons – In Person
Ratliff, Ben. 2002. The New York Times Essential Library of Jazz. New York. Times Books.
Chapter 35. Horace Silver: Horace Silver and the Jazz Messengers (1954-1955)
Rosenthal, David. 1992. Hard Bop: Jazz and Black Music, 1955-1965. New York. Oxford University Press.

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

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