Kind of Blakey

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Art Blakey, 1973 in Hamburg

Arthur William Blakey (also: Abdullah Ibn Buhaina * 11. October 1919 in Pittsburgh , Pennsylvania ; † 16th October 1990 in New York ) was an American jazz - drummer and bandleader .



Art Blakey initially worked in mining. Musically, he began as a self-taught pianist until he was replaced in his own band by Erroll Garner . Then he turned to the drums. In the 1940s, Art Blakey was a drummer in the bands of Mary Lou Williams and Fletcher Henderson .

Billy Eckstine and Miles Davis

In 1944, Art Blakey joined Billy Eckstine's newly formed big band . In the summer of 1944, Billy Eckstine and His Orchestra played in East St. Louis , Illinois, where they appeared in the cast of Charlie "Yardbird" Parker , Dizzy Gillespie , Buddy Anderson , Gene Ammons , Lucky Thompson and Art Blakey. The only 18-year-old Miles Davis was so enthusiastic about their interplay that from then on he didn't want to hear anything else. During his time at Billy Eckstine there was a boycott of recording by the musicians' unions, which is why early recordings from this period are rare. This applies to all boppers .

When Billy Eckstine broke up his band in 1947, Art Blakey traveled to Africa, where he spent the next two years. During his trip to Africa he converted to Islam, became a follower of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community and for some time took the Muslim name of Abdullah Ibn Buhaina . Art Blakey's musical experiences in Africa were later reflected in pieces such as Message from Kenya , Abdallah's Delight and his polyrhythmic drum solos. Further examples are the albums Holiday for Skins Vol. 1 and Holiday for Skins Vol. 2 .

After his return to the USA, Art Blakey played in many bands and as an accompanist to outstanding soloists, for example Fats Navarro , Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis. Together with Sonny Rollins , Kenny Drew , Percy Heath and Jackie McLean , Art Blakey played in Birdland in 1951 in the band of Miles Davis, as evidenced by the record Miles Davis At Birdland in 1951 . The Blue Note album Miles Davis Volume 2 (BLP 5022) was also created for Miles Davis , for which Art Blakey brought in a young and unknown pianist during a session in 1953: Horace Silver .

From 1949 Blakey belonged to the so-called Sugar Hill Harlem clique , which had formed around the tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins. In this environment and under the influence of Charlie Parker, Fats Navarro and Freddie Webster , Art Blakey became addicted to heroin . Miles Davis said in his autobiography: "A few of the younger guys like Dexter Gordon , Tadd Dameron , Art Blakey, JJ Johnson , Sonny Rollins , Jackie McLean, and myself started getting hooked on heroin around the same time."

Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

In 1955, Blakey and Horace Silver founded their own combo, the hard-bop band The Jazz Messengers . Blakey and Silver remained active as accompanying musicians and played, for example, on Kenny Dorham's album Afro-Cuban and the debut album by trumpeter Clark Terry . Silver got out in 1956 and gave Blakey the band name, so that "Horace Silver & the Jazz Messengers" became "Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers".

Art Blakey expected his respective band members to contribute to the group's repertoire. The best-known messenger pieces Moanin ' and Dat Dere come from the pen of the pianist Bobby Timmons .

In 1959 Blakey played with the jazz messengers (Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Barney Wilen, Lee Morgan) the music for the film Les Liaisons dangereuses by Roger Vadim .

Art Blakey released a large part of his albums as a solo artist or with the Jazz Messengers on Blue Note Records. To promote the albums, Blue Note was happy to split popular tracks into two parts as 45s singles. These were seldom played on the radio, but were spread nationwide through the jukebox . This is how some jazz numbers hit the R&B charts. Art Blakey belonged to the organist Jimmy Smith , the trumpeter Donald Byrd and the saxophonist Lou Donaldson thanks to the singles one of the most profitable artists of the record label. Art Blakey: "The very first 45er- single that Alfred brought out, was one of my shots ( Nothing But Soul / Message From Kenya ). They also released some of the Jazz Messengers. Almost everything from the Big Beat album came out as a single (...) Dat Dere is certainly the number that most will remember. That's how I got around the world ... Paris ... Tokyo ... Berlin. "

The most closed formations from this period (late 50s / early 60s) were those with trumpeters Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard , tenor saxophonists Benny Golson ( Blues March ) and Wayne Shorter , pianists Horace Silver , Bobby Timmons ( Moanin ) and Cedar Walton. At the beginning of the 1960s, the messengers were also occasionally expanded into a sextet with the addition of trombonist Curtis Fuller .

In the 1970s there was the innovative combo with Valery Ponomarev , Bobby Watson, and Walter Davis Jr. that isn't well documented ( Jodi ) (Roulette). The 1980s brought the last phase of the band, with very active members later on. These are Wynton Marsalis , Terence Blanchard , Jean Toussaint , Bill Pierce , Donald Harrison , James Williams , Geoff Keezer , Mulgrew Miller , Lonnie Plaxico .

Blakey died of lung cancer in 1990 .


Blakey during a concert in 1985

Blakey's style was shaped by Kenny Clarke , who in the bebop era shifted the basic rhythm from the bass drum to the cymbals and used the low drum for accents. This type of rhythmization was carried to such an extent that in some cases no basic rhythm could be discerned in the drumming. Blakey continued to use the bass drum with an earthy accent that came from swing when the basic rhythm, often simply four quarters , was played on the bass drum, but has completely freed itself from the restrictions in the swing style. According to Max Roach , Blakey had an independence of all four limbs on the drums, which always makes the sound of his polyrhythmic playing style recognizable. Often you can hear press whirls from him at the beginning of a new chorus and as encouragement for the respective soloist whom he accompanies energetically. He often played polyrhythmic drum introductions to his pieces.

Discographic notes

Chart positions
Explanation of the data
Just Coolin ' (with The Jazz Messengers)
  DE 74 07/24/2020 (1 week)
  CH 62 07/26/2020 (1 week)



  • 1965 Live in '65 (DVD)
  • 1983 Jazz at the Smithsonian
  • 1986 At Ronnie Scott's London (Video, DVD as Live from Ronnie Scott’s 2003)
  • 1995 The Jazz Messenger (Video / DVD)
  • 1998 Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers
  • 2001 Jazz Life, Vol. 2
  • 2003 Modern Jazz at the Village Vanguard
  • 2004 Live at Village Vanguard


Web links

Commons : Art Blakey  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Miles Davis, Autobiography, p. 184.
  2. ^ Miles Davis, Autobiography, p. 5.
  3. ^ Miles Davis, Autobiography, pp. 192-195.
  4. ^ Miles Davis, Autobiography, pp. 171-177.
  5. ^ Roy Carr: A Century of Jazz , Sleevenotes for the CD compilation Blue 45s - The Ultimate Jukebox , Blue Note Records, 1998.
  6. Chart sources: Germany Switzerland
  7. Art Blakey | Album Discography | AllMusic. Retrieved June 19, 2018 .