I’m kind of rushing to schedule this one before a busy evening, but tonight let’s listen to another hard bop classic, Moanin’ by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Blakey formed the Jazz Messengers in the early 1950s along with Horace Silver, but by the time this album was recorded (1958, released 1959), Silver had long since left the group to lead his own quintet, and so the group became Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers under his sole leadership. Moanin’ may be their most famous album and it’s certainly one of their best. Along with Blakey on drums, the album features Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson (who wrote most of the tracks) on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons (who wrote the “title” track) on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass.
Here’s the “title” track, written by Timmons, a straight-ahead hard bop number with heavy blues influences. I keep putting “title” in quotes because, officially, this album was self-titled when it was first released, but this track was so popular that people started referring to the whole album by its title, so while it is the title track, that’s not by design:
“Are You Real?” was written by Golson. This one really swings:
“The Drum Thunder Suite” was written by Golson as a feature for Blakey. It’s broken into three movements: “Drum Thunder,” “Cry a Blue Tear,” and “Harlem’s Disciples”:
“Blues March” is Golson’s homage to the New Orleans marching music that was one of the immediate predecessors of what we would think of as jazz:
They also recorded one standard, “Come Rain or Come Shine” by Harold Arlen (with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, but you won’t hear those here), and really knocked it out of the park. I love Golson’s solo on this one:
If you’d like to hear the lyrics, I suggest Ray Charles:
Billie Holliday also did a very nice version, but as great as she is in general I prefer Ray’s version of this tune, ever so slightly.
I left out Golson’s other tune, “Along Came Betty,” because, well, I can’t make it too easy on you.