ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS JUST COOLIN’ NEVER-BEFORE-RELEASED 1959 STUDIO ALBUM OUT NOW ON BLUE NOTE RECORDS
Blue Note Records has released Just Coolin’, a never-before-released studio album by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers that was recorded on March 8, 1959 in Rudy Van Gelder’s living room studio in Hackensack, New Jersey. The session featured a short-lived line-up of The Jazz Messengers with drummer Art Blakey, trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Jymie Merritt. The album is available now to stream, download, on CD, and all-analog 180g vinyl mastered by Kevin Gray.
See what the critics are saying:
“More than 60 years later, this studio album arrives like a long-unopened gift, attaining rarefied heights on its own via the quintet’s elegant sense of control and nuanced blues.”—DownBeat
“an invaluable opportunity to hear a short-lived but significant incarnation of one of jazz’s most fabled groups… these six tracks are buoyed by a hip, streetsy swagger, striding along the nexus between hard bop and soul-jazz.”—JazzTimes
“this could be one of the year’s standout archival releases.”—Rolling Stone
“A stirring 1959 studio session… Any chance to hear more of the extraordinary Lee Morgan is welcome.”—UNCUT
“the main takeaway from the album is that you can never have too much top quality hard bop in your life—any extra time spent in the company of Lee Morgan’s tremendous trumpet playing, is time well spent… it’s a further example of what may be hard bop’s finest group doing what they do best.”—Albumism
“Great moments play all over Just Coolin’… A bop of lasting beauty… Sixty years on and here’s one of those longed for lost stops along the way. Just Coolin’. It feels alive. Perfect for today’s moment.”—AllAboutJazz
“Morgan is in bravura form throughout the session, which also includes some primo Timmons… there was ample chemistry in the short-lived Morgan-and-Mobley edition of the band. This historical document substantially adds to our understanding of it.”—WBGO
“any time we get to hear fresh music from Morgan, Mobley, and Timmons in their prime is indeed special. These tracks boast furious tempos and the combustible energy that defined the classic Jazz Messenger units. These cats are on fire!”—Glide Magazine
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The session for Just Coolin’ finds The Jazz Messengers’ saxophone chair in transition. The band had last recorded in October 1958 when they cemented their place in jazz history with the classic album Moanin’ featuring Benny Golson on tenor saxophone. By July 1959, Blakey had recruited tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter who would remain a fixture of the band until 1964.
The interim saw the return of Mobley, who was a charter member of The Jazz Messengers when the band first formed in 1954 and appeared on their debut recording The Jazz Messengers At The Café Bohemia in 1955. Mobley also filled an important role as the band’s resident composer. In fact, three of the six tracks on Just Coolin’ were written by Mobley: “Hipsippy Blues,” “M&M,” and “Just Coolin’.”
However, five weeks after the studio session Blue Note founder and producer Alfred Lion decided to record the band again at the legendary club Birdland in New York City on April 15, 1959, capturing an assured live recording that included four of the six titles that had been recorded in March. The Birdland sessions ended up superseding the studio date when Lion instead released the two-volume live album Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers At The Jazz Corner Of The World later that year.
“In 2020, it’s great to find more Morgan, Mobley and Timmons in their prime,” writes Bob Blumenthal in the liner notes for Just Coolin’. “The music had clearly settled in during the month that separated studio and live versions, but the fire of these six tracks has an appeal of its own.”
Now, 61 years later jazz fans all over the world will have the chance to listen for themselves.
The credits for Just Coolin’ are as follows:
1. Hipsippy Blues (Hank Mobley)
2. Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere)
3. Jimerick (unknown)
1. Quick Trick (Bobby Timmons)
2. M&M (Hank Mobley)
3. Just Coolin’ (Hank Mobley)
Lee Morgan: trumpet
Hank Mobley: tenor saxophone
Bobby Timmons: piano
Jymie Merritt: bass
Art Blakey: drums
Original session produced by Alfred Lion
Recorded on March 8, 1959, Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ
Recording by Rudy Van Gelder
Photography by Francis Wolff
Cover design by Todd Gallopo at Meat and Potatoes
Produced for release by Zev Feldman
Mastered for vinyl by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio
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October 11, 2019 marked the 100th Anniversary of Art Blakey’s birth. The legendary drummer and Jazz Messengers bandleader was the beating heart of Blue Note Records throughout an important era of the label’s development. He first recorded for Blue Note in 1947 and over the next 2 decades made more than 20 albums for the label as a leader, appearing on nearly 40 more as a sideman. In honor of Blakey’s Centennial Blue Note is celebrating his legacy with previously unreleased recordings, vinyl reissues, and the spotlight playlist Art Blakey: The Finest featuring highlights from his remarkable Blue Note catalog.
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Indestructible (Blue Note 80 Vinyl Edition) – An all-analog 180g vinyl pressing of the 1964 album featuring Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, and Reggie Workman. Part of the Great Reid Miles Covers theme. (out now)
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 1 and Meet You at the Jazz Corner of the World, Vol. 2 (Blue Note 80 Vinyl Editions) – All-analog 180g vinyl pressings of the 1960 live recordings from Birdland in NYC featuring Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt. Part of the Blue Note Live theme. (out now)
- Art Blakey & The Jazz MessengersBuhaina’s Delight (Blue Note 80 Vinyl Edition) – An all-analog 180g vinyl pressing of the 1961 album featuring Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, and Jymie Merritt. Part of the Drummer Leaders theme. (out now)
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers The Freedom Rider (Vinyl Me, Please Exclusive) – An all-analog 180g vinyl pressing of the 1961 album featuring Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt. (sold out)
- Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers Roots & Herbs (Tone Poet Vinyl Edition) – An all-analog 180g vinyl pressing in deluxe gatefold packaging of the 1961 album featuring Art Blakey with Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons, Walter Davis Jr., and Jymie Merrit, that was first released in 1970. (out Oct. 30)
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Art Blakey was born on October 11, 1919 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By his early 20s Blakey was touring with bands led by Fletcher Henderson and Mary Lou Williams which brought him to New York City. After joining Billy Eckstine’s band the drummer became associated with the bebop movement and was soon playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. It was with Monk that Blakey first appeared on a Blue Note session in October 1947, performing on what would be the pianist’s debut as a leader Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1.
Blakey cut his own date as a leader in December 1947 with a group billed as Art Blakey’s Messengers, but it wasn’t until 1954 that Blakey delivered his first essential album with the recording of A Night at Birdland. Featuring an all-star band with Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver and Curly Russell that was billed as the Art Blakey Quintet, the album was an early hard bop manifesto, a thrilling live recording of the top young players of the day who were taking bebop in new directions.
It was with Silver that Blakey co-founded The Jazz Messengers, the genesis of a longstanding band that was first recorded by Blue Note live At The Café Bohemia in 1955. Silver eventually left to lead his own quintet, and Blakey took the helm of The Jazz Messengers for rest of his career. In 1958, the band recorded what remains perhaps their defining masterpiece. Originally self-titled Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, the success of the album’s opening track “Moanin’” by pianist Bobby Timmons eventually caused the album to be known as Moanin’.
Although Blakey also recorded a series of solo albums that explored the influence of African drumming including Orgy In Rhythm, Holiday For Skins, and The African Beat, it was The Jazz Messengers that form the centerpiece of Blakey’s legacy. Over the remainder of his Blue Note years Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers recorded numerous enduring classics such as The Big Beat, A Night In Tunisia, The Freedom Rider, Mosaic, Buhaina’s Delight, Free For All, and Indestructible (his final Blue Note album recorded in 1964).
Blakey’s legacy with The Jazz Messengers throughout the group’s 35-year history lay in finding the most creative young players and composers to continually inspire him. The drummer recruited up and coming musicians, mentored them in his school of hard bop, encouraged them to compose new music, afforded them creative freedom, and once they were fully groomed watched them fly from the nest to become bandleaders in their own right. A partial list of Jazz Messengers Alumni includes Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Javon Jackson, and Mulgrew Miller. Visit artblakey.com for a longer list.
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