art blakey

Art Blakey: A Drummer for the Ages

Art Blakey is one of the great jazz drummers as well as a founder of The Jazz Messengers, which had a 35 year run (from 1955 to 1990). Blakey worked with hard bop pianist Horace Silver, and they are credited as co-founders of the collective. The list of members is very long and illustrious.

Above is a brief video about the great jazz drummer Art Blakey. Below is the title track from the album “Moanin’,” which was engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. Van Gelder, a legendary figure, was able to coax an immediate and intimate sound from artists and get them safely ensconsed in the grooves of a record.

The video briefly discusses Blakey’s importance, which is twofold: He was a major influence on drumming and a conduit through which many well-known musicians found their legs in jazz.

Here are some of the sources I used. Wikipedia and a site dedicated to Blakey provide background and biographical information for Blakey, who was from Pittsburgh. Bob Perkins at WRTI discussed the similarities and differences of Blakey and Duke Ellington as mentors. Rick Mattingly at the Percussive Arts Society excerpted a comment Blakey made to Modern Drummer’s Chip Stern which I in turn used in the video. Mattingly also described Blakey’s style:

But despite his technical abilities, Blakey was known for a more straight-ahead style of timekeeping than most of his bebop contemporaries. He typically maintained a strong hi-hat on beats 2 and 4, made sure there was no doubt as to where “1” was, and instead of setting up sections and phrases with elaborate fills, he would lead into them with powerful press rolls. Blakey is also credited with originating the oft-used cross-stick on beat 4 and of inspiring the development of riveted cymbals by hanging his key ring over the wingnut of his ride cymbal to produce a sizzle effect.

Other important Blakey-associated songs are “Blues March” and “Along Came Betty.” I phrase it that way because Blakey wrote none of the three. “Moanin’ ” was written by Bobby Timmons. Golson wrote “Blues March” and “Along Came Betty.”

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