Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers – Kyoto
Quite possibly the best of the non-Blue Note Blakey sides from the early 60s — and an excellent outing from the sextet version of the Jazz Messengers that included Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, and Reggie Workman! The format here is a big tighter than some of Blakey’s quintet sessions — with a bit more focus on the arrangements than before — but a change that’s more than welcome to our ears, given the strength of the material and Walton’s majestic command of the rhythms! Wellington Blakey joins the group on vocals on the track “Wellington’s Blues” — but the best aspect of the album is its long Eastern-tinged jam tracks, very much in the mode of some of Horace Silver’s work in a similar vein. Titles include Sadao Watanabe’s “Nihon Bash”, plus “Kyoto”, “The High Priest”, and “Never Never Land”.