Tenth and Parker
Berkeley, California 94710
Art Blakey, one of the top drummers in all of jazz history, began by studying the piano in school. He only took up the drums when the drummer with a band in which he was playing became ill.
Blakey joined the Fletcher Henderson band in 1939, and played with him for some time. Then, in 1944, he joined the Billy Eckstine band and stayed with Billy for the duration of that band, until 1947. Actually, Blakey was just warming up for a tremendously long and varied musical career.
In the 40s, Art Blakey, together with Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Christian, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis pioneered the jazz form which came to be known as bebop (or, as jazz critic Leonard Feather calls it, "hard bop").
In any event, the form stuck and became the very essence of jazz.
Blakey played with the DeFranco Quartet from 1951 to 1953, and in 1954 he started working as a leader in the now historic New York jazz club, Birdland. His group there evolved into what became the Jazz Messengers, who came to prominence in 1955 and toured the U.S. and Europe extensively during the next five years. The original Jazz Messengers included Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Horace Silver and Doug Watkins.
While in France in 1958, Blakey and his Messengers recorded the soundtrack for the film Les Femmes Disparaissent (The Disappearing Women). Blakey has performed at virtually every important festival and meeting of the jazz greats, including the Newport Jazz Festivals and Randall's Island Festivals, and has toured the Far East and Europe with the Newport All-Stars.
Despite changes in personnel, Blakey continues to dominate the "hard bop" area of jazz, and his drumming has been a kinetic force for his inventive and stimulating style. Blakey shifted from a quintet to sextet (in the 60s), and in 1965 returned to quintet form. Blakey has given initial exposure and experience to many of today's top jazz stars - among them Freddie Hubbard, the late Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter.
In 1972 Art Blakey signed a long-term exclusive recording contract with Prestige Records for a series of LP's. Child's Dance (Prestige 10047) was the first album for the label, and Buhaina (Prestige 10067) is the second. Buhaina is Blakey's Moslem name, and he's often called "Bu" by his friends, explaining the title of the album and on number, "A Chant for Bu."
The current edition of the Jazz Messengers includes Slide Hampton, trombone; Woody Shaw, trumpet; Ramon Morris, tenor sax; John Hicks, piano; and Stan Clarke, bass.