Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers
5 stars
Reviewed by Alex Siegers

This previously unreleased recording of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers is exhilarating, captured at Hibiya Public Hall, Tokyo, on 14 January 1961. This was the final show of the band’s first-ever tour of Japan, recorded for a documentary that never happened, featuring one of the band’s all-time great line-ups in the long history of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers. Joining the legendary drummer Art Blakey were Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass. The two-disc album opens with an explosive Blakey solo, introducing a nearly 23-minute version of Now’s the Time, setting the scene for the groove and sass to come. Highlights include two Bobby Timmons originals: Moanin’, featuring a lyrical Timmons on piano; and Dat Dere, with Shorter’s titanic and raucous blasts, followed by Morgan perfectly parsed blues. Other favourites include ‘Round About Midnight and Night in Tunisia. The album has the thrilling energy that I love about live recordings; a rawness that is absent from highly polished studio performances. And while some tracks or sections are compromised due to the recording quality, it simply invites a deeper listen, or at least headphones, to fully appreciate the virtuosity and verve.