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).
I could not identify the tune here, could somebody help?
The next clip can be dated exactly: July 23, 1983 at the Jazz Festival Montreux. The band is the same as in Umbria. 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 lot more footage of the Jazz Messengers at the Subway. But the quality is not that good. I have loaded it up anyway in the hope this will provoke someone into coming up with a better version:
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 …