ART BLAKEY AND THE JAZZ MESSENGERS Moanin’ (Blue Note)
Originally an eponymous release, the popularity of the opening track saw it rapidly elevated to title tune status, and deservedly so. The slow, bluesy composition by Jazz Messengers pianist Bobby Timmons passes by in what seems like a fraction of its ten minute duration, perhaps dominated by Lee Morgan’s fluttery-fingered trumpet solo. Timmons’ clangourous piano sound aside, it doesn’t sound like a 50-year-old recording.
Although the remainder of the album runs the risk of being overshadowed by that momentous opener, it puts up a brave fight for the listener’s continued attention. Vibrant, upbeat, brassy and blaring, “Are You Real” sounds like a showtune from a big musical extravaganza; “Along Came Betty” is relaxed and laid-back, almost “Blue Train”-y. The three part “The Drum Thunder Suite” was born of Blakey’s desire for a piece that allowed him extensive use of mallets, fashioned from the title upwards, and “Blues March” sounds authentically like a passing parade, right down to the way it recedes into the distance at its close.
A solidly competent serving of hard bop, then; it’s worth it for the title track on its own, and any additional enjoyment is a bonus. The recent Japanese 180 gram vinyl reissue is one of the better ones I’ve heard from that series; it doesn’t approach the standard Music Matters and Analogue Productions are currently achieving from Blue Note tapes, but until those series turn their attention to “Moanin’” it’ll do.