Art Blakey in the 1970s and 1980s

Bildschirmfoto 2016-01-10 um 12.19.31Art Blakey in Montreux on July 8, 1976

[UPDATE: Changed the 62 minutes Subway clip to a better version] In the 1970s and the 1980s Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers were regulars on the european jazz festival circuit. So it’s very strange that I never managed to see the band live. But then again at that time my mind was set on free jazz only and I must have thought of Blakey as old hat.

So I am fortunate that I found a lot of TV footage of Blakey among the VHS tapes of my late friend, the swiss jazz researcher Otto Flückiger. Some clips feature just one track, some are full length concerts.


Starting off with Blakey and the Messengers playing “Along Came Betty” on July 8, 1976 at the Jazz Festival Montreux. The band on this occasion: Art Blakey (dr), Bill Hardman (tp), David Schnitter (ts), Mickey Tucker (p), Christopher Amberger (b). According to this list, “Along Came Betty” was the third track of this concert.

On another cassette, I found another track from this concert: “Gipsy Folk Tales” (the seventh track of the concert). Unfortunately this suddenly stops around the nine minute mark in the midst of Mickey Tucker’s solo (what follows on the VHS tape is a Donna Summer show!)

If you came here for a glimpse of Wynton Marsalis, I have to disappoint you since the chronologically next clip I found is from the 1983 Umbria Jazz Festival. This festival took place from July 11-17, 1983. It’s not clear, on what day the Messengers played. Here the band consists of Blakey (dr), Terence Blanchard (tp), Donald Harrison (as), Jean Toussaint (ts), Mulgrew Miller (p), and Lonnie Plaxico (b).

They are playing “Oh by the Way”, composed by Terence Blanchard (thanks, Saxophone Freddie!)

The next clip can be dated exactly: July 23, 1983 at the Jazz Festival Montreux. The band is the same as in Umbria with Johnny O’Neal replacing Mulgrew Miller (thanks, Saxophone Freddie!). I made a mistake editing this: I did not realize that the TV station had broadcasted the latter part of the show live ( an unidentified tune, the introduction of the musicians by Blakey, an unidentified old time tune, “Polka Dots and Moonbeams and “Blues March”. Then after a break comes an  excerpt from the first part of the concert featuring “Little Man” and a another unidentified tune. Again: If you can identify the untitled tunes, I’d be grateful.

At some time in February 1984 the Jazz Messengers played at the Jazz Festival Aarau in Switzerland. I was not able to find out the exact date (McCoy Tyner played there on February 24). Again the band consists of Blakey (dr), Terence Blanchard (tp), Donald Harrison (as), Jean Toussaint (ts), Mulgrew Miller (p), and Lonnie Plaxico (b).  All in all there are more than 80 minutes from Aarau, but the source video gave me trouble. After the first 30 minutes or so, the video starts repeatedly to stall while the music goes on. That is why the first, second and fourth part have video to the audio, whereas for the third part I could not get video and audio synchroneous (i’d need weeks for that). So i just added some screenshots to the music.

Part 1 starts with Donald Harrison’s solo in an unidentified tune and commences with “On The Ginza”:

Part 2 again starts wirth an unidentified snippet of Donald Harrison which is soon followed by “Moanin'”.

Part 3 unfortunately has no footage, as I explained above. Blakey and the Jazz Messengers play “Oh By The Way” and “Tenderly”, a feature for Terence Blanchard:

Finally part 4 – again with footage – is another rendition of “Blues March”:

On March 23, 1984 the Jazz Messengers played at the 15. Internationale Jazzwoche in Burghausen (look here to see the poster, does anyone have footage from the Arkestra’s appearance on March 22?). Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Jean Toussaint, Mulgrew Miller and Lonnie Plaxico are on board with Blakey. In this clip (again all I have) they are playing “Duck Soup” (I guess named for it’s composer, Donald “Duck” Harrison”, falsely titled “Duck Soup” by the TV station) and Benny Golson’s “Blues March”. Note that “Duck Soup” has already been put up on youtube by someone, but “Blues March” has not.

The next clip features the Jazz Messengers (Art Blakey (dr), Terence Blanchard (tp), Donald Harrison (as), Jean Toussaint (ts), Mulgrew Miller (p), Lonnie Plexico (b)) at the jazz club Subway in Cologne, probably on February 1, 1985. Again I could not identify the tune:

In fact there is a more than an hour of the Jazz Messengers at the Subway. I found a better version than the one I had shown here previously. Here it is:

Jumping forward four years, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers  appeared at the Jazz Festival Bern in April or early May 1989 .There the band consisted of Blakey, Brian Lynch, Donald Harrison, Terence Tony, Javon Jackson, Frank Lacy, Benny Green, and Essiet Essiet. I found over an hour of footage from this concert, for technical reasons I had to split this into three parts.

Part 1 features Wayne Shorter’s “Hammer Head” followed by J. J. Johnson’s “Lament”:

Part 2 features Walter Davis’ “Jodi” followed by an interview with Blakey (with italian voice-over) and Freddie Hubbard’s composition “The Core”.

For the last part of the show (or this broadcast?) the band was joined by veteran Messenger Bennie Golson for a rendition of Golson’s “Blues March”.

 And finally something rare and special: At the Estival Jazz Lugano in summer 1989 (exact date unknown) Art Blakey – who otherwise did not play there – was presented with an honory award for his life achievements. On that occasion he agreed to improvise a little with Guido Parini and Oliviero Giovannoni, two fine drummers from the italian speaking part of Switzerland. Blakey has to be pushed into this somewhat by the announcer, I have left this out to protect the living …


6 Responses to “Art Blakey in the 1970s and 1980s”

  1. Thanks so much for posting these great video rarities! I’m especially enjoying the Blakey/Blanchard/Harrison band. I share your regret of missing seeing the band. When I was 15 in the summer of 1986 I missed my only chance to see them (the Wallace Roney edition) when an electrical storm in New York prevented them from flying up to my home town of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada for our jazz festival. I was a huge fan of this band at the time, but TV and radio appearances were almost non-existant.

    Anyhow, i don’t know if you still need help identifying the tunes, but the first one at Aarau is a surprise. It’s ‘Eighty-one’ (best known from Miles’ ESP album). Too bad it’s missing the opening head and Blanchard’s solo. (Hopefully someone else has a more complete copy out there!) I love how crisp Blakey’s accents are on the closing head, the way he nails the snare and hi-hat! I don’t know of any other example of Blakey playing this piece, but it’s obvious he’s familiar with it. (In cases like this, I wonder if he was aware of it from the 1960s or whether the young guys in the band would bring it to him and he was hearing it for the first time.)

    BTW, you’ve got the Aarau video listed as “1989” when, as you note, it’s actually 1984. I hope that someday you have the time to try to post the actual video for Part 3 (or perhaps someone else can take a crack at it?).

    I like how at Aarau during the closing theme, they play the ‘Merry Melodies’ theme (or is it ‘Loony Toons’?). They do it again a month later at Berghausen during Blakey’s intro of the musicians (which I suspect may have been spliced in from the closing theme of the concert). Note Miller starts playing “Chicago” when Blakey introduces Plaxico.

    Finally, at the end of the Subway show, I notice after the Blakey interview, there’s yet another unidentified piece played during the closing credits. Not sure of the title, though I haven’t checked the Blakey albums from that time eg. Blue Night.

    Anyhow, hope some of this is useful. Thanks again!

    p.s. Thank you also for posting that rare Coltrane 78 “Strange Things are all the rage”. Not only is it a fantastic example of early Coltrane, but the lyrics are quite interesting for the time and I like the singer! (The arrangement reminds me of the Clifford Brown/Max Roach arrangement of “Delilah” but if this 78 is actually from 1953, it would actually pre-date Brown-Roach by a year.)
    ***Would you please be so kind as to post the other side as well?

    • Oh, that “1989” for Aarau was a typo which I then copied and pasted. Just have corrected that now. Thanks for all your information! Will add that if I find some time. About Coatesville Harris: I might put it up ome day, but not too soon.

    • About “Eighty-one”: Bllakey and the Messengers recorded this at the “Sweet Basil” on Dec. 30 or 31 1985 It’s on the Paddle Wheel Album “Dr. Jeckyle”.

  2. saxophonefreddie Says:

    Umbria 1983 – the tune is Oh-By The Way, composed by Terence Blanchard

  3. saxophonefreddie Says:

    the 1983 Montreux personnel showed one change compared to Umbria 1983: in Umbria Mulgrew Miller was at the piano, in Montreux it was Johnny O’Neal.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: