Great Blakey Set With One Oddity
Michael B. Richman | Portland, Maine USA | 03/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"On "Kyoto," we find the greatest edition of the Jazz Messengers at the peak of their musical prowess. The year is 1964, a watershed year for jazz, and Art Blakey's group made two classic contributions to help make it memorable -- the Blue Note albums "Free For All" and the now sadly out of print "Indestructible." "Kyoto," one of three albums the Messengers made for the Riverside label, was actually recorded in between the aforementioned desert island discs, on February 20, 1964. Four of the album's tracks -- "The High Priest," "Never Never Land," "Nihon Bash" and the title track -- are every bit the equal of the tunes on the two Blue Notes. The compositions feature impeccable frontline arrangements and solos by Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller, and stellar rhythmic support by Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman and the Art-ist himself. What brings this disc down to four stars is two-fold. One, the album is too short -- under 35 minutes. Second, is the song "Wellington's Blues," a mediocre oddity featuring the vocal talents (?) of Blakey's cousin Wellington. Some may find this song a refreshing change of pace in the Messengers discography, but I'll take a raucous, hard bop Blakey stomp any day to a humdrum composition like this. In all, "Kyoto" is a welcome addition to those rounding out their Blakey collections, but newcomers should stick to the Blue Note titles."