Very Good Transitional Session
Michael Hardin | South Duxbury, Vermont United States | 07/14/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Africaine," recorded in 1959, shows a great edition of the Jazz Messengers almost entirely in place. Lee Morgan is on trumpet, Wayne Shorter is on Tenor Saxophone, and Jymie Merrit plays bass, but Walter Davis Jr. occupies the piano chair rather than Bobby Timmons, who had departed a previous edition of the group to play with Cannonball Adderley. He would later return to complete the group. While I have read that Walter Davis Jr. was one of Art's favorite pianists, I have to give Timmons the nod as the better player, since Davis has this annoying habit of getting caught up on one lick and repeating it to the point where you listen and say "didn't I just hear that a few seconds ago?" He comes out of the second wave of bebop players and therefore doesn't sound particularly original the way Timmons does. Also, this is the first recording of Wayne Shorter, and he is very young in his development, so his playing is (relatively) plain compared to where he would take it over the next five years with this group.
That having been said, this album has some great moments. "Haina" is an uptempo Latin tune by Morgan that is a precursor to the legendary recording of "A Night In Tunisia" that this group made, and "The Midget" is an interesting Morgan blues with some unusual harmonic alterations. There is a recording of "Lester Left Town," a Wayne Shorter tune later covered by this group on "The Big Beat," and it's interesting to compare the two (the later recording compares favorably to this one, but not by much).
All in all, this album serves mostly as a historical document that is most interesting after hearing the output by this group over 1960 and 1961, so get those first, and then come back to this one in order to see where it all came from."
The Search Is Over For "Africaine"
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 04/02/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On the back cover of Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' "Africaine" limited edition disc, it is mentioned that of all the then yet to be reissued Blue Note albums, this was the one most requested by customers to be re-released on CD. It's easy to see why from a collector's standpoint. "Africaine" was the first Jazz Messenger album to feature the soon-to-be famous frontline of Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan, yet it was not issued at the time of its recording because Art's group would record an amazing dozen albums worth of material over the next 18 months. "Africaine" wasn't made available on vinyl until 1979, and it is only now making its first appearance on CD.
Recorded on November 10, 1959, the "Africaine" edition of the Messengers features Art, Shorter, Morgan, Walter Davis Jr. on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass, and trumpeter Dizzy Reece joining on congas for two tracks. The disc's first two tunes were written by Shorter (along with a Vee-Jay session recorded the previous day, these are his first recorded compositions), the third track was penned by Davis, and the final three are all Morgan numbers. The reasons for my only awarding this CD four stars are probably the same ones that caused it to sit on the shelves in the Blue Note/Capitol vaults for so many years. "Lester Left Town" was recorded again in a few short months for inclusion on the very successful "The Big Beat" album, and several parts written for "Haina" were later incorporated into the Messengers' seminal version of "A Night In Tunisia" (the percussion intros in particular). My guess is Alfred Lion looked at this session as sort of a warm-up for great things to come, plus issuing it at the time of its conception would have been a bit redundant considering the similarity in material mentioned above. However, Jazz Messenger fans should not let this rare session slip through their fingers."
William R. Nicholas | Mahwah, NJ USA | 04/17/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The other day when looking for Art Blakey albums, I read an analysis that really pissed me off. All Music Guide said that jazz has rejected the inventions of Coltrane and Coleman and embraced the hard bop of Art Blakey. I am even more aghast to fine this reprinted here.
This is not a slight on Blakey--the counterpoint to Max Roach who I just never had time to investigate. It is only a crack on the genre bean counters. Was Steely Dan reaction to King Crimson--no. It is just that great artists, like Art Blakey, make their own music. Only the frustrated musicians of the music press go back and split hairs to sound like they are saying something.
High and mighty music people as these chin stroking critics wanna be, they don't understand the basic fact of music--it all coexists beautifully on the same level. Wayne Shorter was interested in free jazz while playing with Blakey, and the chief messenger let him explore--need I go further?
But my outrage at the article did, of course, not stop my foray into Blakeydom. So I begin with Africane, a fantastic album of.......oh yeah, music. The fast tempos and winding chord changes here make this work complex, and with solo playing from both
Shorter and Lee Morgan, you have the top of the league at bat.
Particularly gripping is "Midget," (not a very cool term but it was 1959 come on.) Not matter how much music I hear, the minor blues well played never ceases to grip me--it is like a food you can eat daily or always return to, and it remains perfect.
If, however, you want comparisons, here is one with some value. I played buddies Art Blakey and Max Roach next to each other: I am new to Art, so why not use a convex mirror. I found--and maybe I'll start a discussion-is that Blakey is both more flashy and more conservative: he looks for, and places perfectly, the big fill, the hard roll. Max swings as well, but is more interested in syncopating and subdividing the beat then in a dramatic flourish.;
(Disagree? Comment: let's talk about it)
Either way, I love this album, and I do have a label for this music