Impulse Records released only two LPs credited to Art Blakey
, both with somewhat generic titles, 1961's Jazz Messengers!!!!
, with Blakey
's usual group, the Jazz Messengers
, and 1963's A Jazz Message
, by the Art Blakey Quartet
. Half a century later, the two albums make an obvious choice for a two-fer CD from the Impulse/Verve imprint of Universal. The former album (Tracks 1-6) is a fairly standard set for the Jazz Messengers
of the time, a group then including Wayne Shorter
on tenor sax, which is to say that it is a superior hard bop blowing session. For A Jazz Message
(Tracks 7-12), Impulse tried something different, convening, on a one-time-only basis for the July 16, 1963, recording date, a group consisting of Blakey
on drums, Art Davis
on bass, McCoy Tyner
on piano, and Sonny Stitt
on tenor and alto saxophones. The thrown-together nature of the date is indicated by the reliance on standards like "Summertime" and "The Song Is You," as well as the straight blues called "Blues Back." But the players spark each other, with Tyner
getting some excellent solo time (particularly on "Blues Back"), while the spotlight usually falls on Stitt
mostly contents himself with timekeeping, which throws into question his leadership of the outfit, but as usual, he is a catalyst. The two albums provide different sides of his talent from his prime.