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Coasting along on hard bop rhythm

Art Blakey's drums permeate this album and make their presence felt even when they're in the background

Coast to Coast
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers
Concord Jazz
from Music Gallery India Pvt Ltd
Rs 1200 (two-CD set)

This is a very recent release from Concord Jazz, not just new in India. It brings together two albums from the '80s previously released separately, of which I've already reviewed Disc 1, New York Scene. So let's launch into Disc 2, Live at Kimball's, recorded at Kimball's in San Francisco in April 1985.

As in that case, the music here too is a mixture of fast-paced and slow, reflective numbers, with a slight tilt towards the fast. The personnel are the same: Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Jean Toussaint on tenor sax, Donald Harrison on alto sax, Mulgrew Miller on piano, Lonnie Plaxico on bass and of course the veteran Blakey on drums.

The two entirely slow pieces are Old folks, which has a long intro by Miller and is really a (virtuoso) piano solo all the way, and Polka dots and moonbeams, dominated by Blanchard. He has a solo intro and finale, besides also taking, in between, two solos which sandwich a solo by Miller on piano. Jody and Dr Jekyl (maybe a deliberate misspelling), two super-fast pieces, get dramatic solo intros by Blakey demonstrating his greatness as a drummer. The power and variety of his percussive effects characterises the driving beat that defined hard bop. Both tracks also have searing solos by Toussaint, while Second thoughts is another fast-paced piece earmarked as a showcase for Blanchard and Miller.

A change of pace from a slow and leisurely intro and ending to a more lively middle, another feature that shows the drummer-leader's talent for playing around with and varying the beat, marks out I love you and You and the night and the music. The former stars Harrison's alto sax all the way from its ballad-type lyrical start to finish, while on the latter Miller solos exclusively. Not forgetting, however, that Blakey's drums permeate this album and make their presence felt even when they're in the background, nominally mere accompaniment to the front-line musicians but in fact encouraging and prompting them.


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