All that's jazz... and more

Today in 2002 Shirley Scott passed away. To honour her and the other great exponents of the organ  we have created a playlist featuring some of the best known, and not so well known, jazz played on the Hammond B3 in particular. Any idea who that is playing organ with Illinois Jacquet? It got to No.3 on the Billboard R & B chart.

Messenger’s Selection – The Organ


“Jimmy Smith… cuts through grease like fresh battery acid.” Al Collins, KSFO San Francisco

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Of course he had a little help from Miles Davis.

“Here’s one of the outstanding jazz sets released in the past few months and perhaps one of the best of the year. It features some truly fine, sensitive trumpet work by Miles Davis, and at times, some of the best work yet waxed by Cannonball Adderley. Both ‘Autumn Leaves’ and ‘Love for Sale’ are handed superb treatments by Davis, and Adderley shines with his solo on ‘Dancing in the Dark.’ An album that will be important to all jazz fans.” Billboard 20 October 1958 

Almost four years to the day since he last recorded for Blue Note, Miles Davis was back in the studio to cut another album for the label, but not as a leader. The band was led by twenty-nine-year-old Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley – and what a band it is. Adderley was a member of Davis’s Sextet at the time of this recording, and the following year the saxophonist appeared on the seminal Kind of Blue. The feel of this album is something akin to a dry-run for what followed, and everyone with a love of jazz should own it.

The principal difference between this album and Kind of Blue is that Somethin’ Else has three tracks that are re-workings of standards – apparently chosen by Davis – which enhances the feeling of extreme comfort that each and every track exudes. Of the two original numbers, Miles composed the title track while ‘One For Daddy-O’ was a joint creation by pianist Jones and Adderley’s cornet-playing brother, Nat.

Throughout much of the album, Adderley and Davis seem to be engaged in their own private conversation, a conversation we are privileged to eavesdrop on. The stand-out track for most listeners is ‘Autumn Leaves’ and what’s so gratifying about this number and ‘Love For Sale’, is that neither song sounds like a straight rehash. It has been said that there is not ‘a rote moment’ on the album and both tracks prove the point. If you want to know what makes Adderley such a master, just listen to ‘Dancing In The Dark’; all it needs are strings and you’d swear it was Charlie Parker.

“For those not familiar with the latest in terminology, that the title number of the Miles Davis original, which also provided the name for this album, is a phrase of praise. And if I may add my personal evaluation, I should like to emphasize that Cannonball and Miles and the whole rhythm section and, indeed, the entire album certainly can be described emphatically as ‘somethin’ else’.” – Leonard Feather, original album liner notes

You can hear it here…


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Ruud March 9th at 3:04pm

One of the best!

There are times when Art is so much on fire that he almost drives you off the stand.” 

Nat Hentoff, from the original liner notes

Irresistible, passionate, energetic, and intense could all be used to describe this album, which was recorded on 10 February 1964, the day after the Beatles made their debut on Ed Sullivan’s TV show and changed the musical landscape of America forever. This line-up of the Jazz Messengers was in its third year, but it was to be the last Blue Note album on which Freddie Hubbard appeared with the band – he had already recorded a number of solo albums for both Blue Note and impulse!

The eleven-minute title track, composed by the band’s tenor saxophonist, Wayne Shorter, is perfectly named; its driving hard-bop drives harder and further than anything else that the Jazz Messengers ever recorded. The opening section of ‘Free For All’ begins with Cedar Walton’s piano before all three brass players (Hubbard, Shorter and trombone player Curtis Fuller) play some of the most eloquent and elegant riffing in the band’s canon. As the title suggests, the composition is indeed free but never loses its structure.

Recorded in early 1964, the album came out in August 1965 and Billboard said of it –  “The Messengers wail through four originals with an abandon typical of Blakey’s driving drumming and leadership…this jazz is very up to the moment”. All four tracks help make this one of the high points in the Jazz Messengers’ recording history. Hubbard’s composition, ‘The Core’ is a stand-out track, with all the soloists getting their turn, while being driven along by Blakey’s fiery drumming. Inspired by the work of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), ‘The Core’ was recorded just three months after John F. Kennedy was assassinated and during the same month that the Civil Rights Act was put before the US Senate.

Bossa nova was very much in fashion and ‘Pensativa’, as delicate as the rest of the record is muscular, is by pianist Clare Fischer. Cited by Herbie Hancock as one of his early influences, Fischer’s composition was brought to the session by Hubbard who had heard the pianist perform it. ‘Pensativa’ remained a Blakey favourite for many years and was played regularly at live gigs – on the recording Art can be heard yelling encouragement to the soloists. Free For All was recorded at a single session and the band also found time to cut a couple of tracks with R&B singer Willington Blakey, who was Art’s cousin, but neither of them were deemed worthy of release.

This is one of the vinyl reissues from Blue Note that will be available from 25 March: Click here for more information

Listen to Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers now

This retrospective first featured on our Jazz Messenger Monthly mailer. For a copy to be sent direct to your inbox each month, sign up here.


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Forty-five may not the obvious age to be making a major career move, but that’s exactly what Louis Armstrong decided to do. He had been playing and touring with his orchestra, a big band by any other name, but in May 1947 Louis played a momentous concert at the Town Hall in New York with a small group of musicians, after which there seemed to be no going back. But his appearance with his ‘All-Stars’, as they were soon called, was not just something out of the blue. As is so often with an event that occurs in a blinding flash, things that occurred in the build-up are obscured by the intensity of the white light of publicity.

Carnegie Hall, two blocks south of New York City’s Central Park is one of the most prestigious concert venues in the world. The 2,800 main auditorium has featured just about every great name in 20th century music, but up until February 1947 Louis had only ever driven by Carnegie Hall, never having he been inside. It was critic and Down Beat writer Leonard Feather that suggested Louis make his debut there in February 1947 with a six-piece band led by Edmond Hall.

“I had always enjoyed Edmond’s playing and he had some fine musicians in his band whom I knew from the good old Harlem days. They could all blow their ass off.”

Hall, born in New Orleans three months before Louis, certainly had the musical pedigree, although Hall thought of himself as a swing rather than Dixieland player; whatever the case he was good and his band had the residency at both of New York’s legendary Café Society Clubs – the one in Greenwich village, the other on 58th Street between Lexington and Park Avenue. Louis jumped at the chance to play with Hall, but ever loyal he insisted that his own Orchestra closed the show.


Pops in the second half of the Carnegie Hall concert with his orchestra

The first half featured a veritable array of early Louis classics, from ‘Dippermouth Blues’ to ‘Muskrat Ramble’ and ‘Rockin Chair’ to ‘West End Blues’ and a plethora of other great tune in the New Orleans tradition. For his Orchestra spot Louis had Billie Holiday as a guest on ‘Do you know what it means to Miss New Orleans’. “He is as old as New Orleans and as new as tomorrow,” wrote Nora Holt in the New York Amsterdam News, one of the largest African American dailies in the US. “And his genius will live in history as a fundamental part of American music, whether from the soil or the symphony.” Prosaic and prophetic.

Armstrong’s old friend Eddie Condon’s press agent was at Carnegie Hall and he instantly hit on an idea. Take Louis, put him with a fabulous group of musicians in a small group setting and present them in a New York concert of material very similar to those played in the first half of his Carnegie Hall show. All he needed to do was convince Armstrong’s manager Joe Glaser and the only way to do that was with f money, and so he visited Glaser, with a cashier’s check for $1,500, and explained that it was for Louis to appear along with a group of the best musicians. . .done deal.

“Ever since I can remember playing music the white musicians always were glad to see the colored musicians. And you know? The colored guys were always the same.”

Anderson enlisted the help of cornetists, Bobby Hackett and the two of them went to Louis was a list of milestone recordings from the glory days that the band could perform. Jack Teagarden and Sid Catlett were both quickly enlisted to play and they joined Louis and Hackett along with clarinetist and saxophonist Peanuts Hucko, Dick Cary on piano, Bob Haggart on bass and George Wettling who shared the drum stool with Big Sid. Sidney Bechet had been asked by Hackett to appear, but at the last minute decided not to participate suggesting he was ‘ill’.


The All Stars at The Town Hall July 1947

The repertoire was perfectly picked – they opened with ‘Cornet Chop Suey’ – the playing superlative from each member of the band and it was as though Louis had shed a couple of decades from his playing. True to say that not every number came together on the night, partly because Louis did not see the need to rehearse.

Following the birth of the All-Stars at the Town Hall Glaser set about capitalising on their success. Less than a month later this early All Stars line-up went into Victor’s New York studio to record. Nine days later they played the Winter Garden Theater in New York City and before the year was out Louis and his All-Stars played Carnegie Hall with a line-up of Teagarden, Barney Bigard, Dick Cary, bass player Arvell Shaw, Big Sid and Velma Middleton singing; two weeks later on 30 November 1947 they were in Boston’s Symphony Hall. The complete Symphony Hall has been reissued on CD; if you’ve never got what all the fuss about Louis and the All Stars is all about, this will show you.


Before all the excitement of lavish gigs in symphony halls Louis and the All-Stars played Billy Berg’s Vine Street Jazz club in Los Angeles for their West Coast debut as a band. Louis had been filming A Song Is Born in Hollywood during July along with Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and Tommy Dorsey; the film starred Danny Kaye. Reviews of the All-Stars shows at Bill Berg’s were almost identical to those from his big East Coast appearances; Satchmo had once again found jazz after years spent in the big band wilderness.

In the immediate aftermath of the Symphony Hall concert Joe Glaser’s phone rarely stopped ringing. Everyone wanted to book the All-Stars and not just in America. In February 1948 Louis and the band flew to France to appear at the Nice Jazz Festival; it had been fifteen years since Louis had played outside of North America, he for one had probably surmised his days of playing abroad had gone. In the course of just a year Louis’s career had taken yet another extraordinary turn.  It was the beginning of the most amazing period in Louis Armstrong’s career…

If you can’t wait for the CD to arrive here’s some extracts courtesy of Spotify 

For a great insight into Pops’s later career read Ricky Riccardi’s fabulous book.


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Boris Enquist March 7th at 2:35pm

A wonderful story!

giai01 March 8th at 12:19am

Reblogged this on Giai01's Blog and commented:


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mindfulkettle March 7th at 4:21am

Reblogged this on The Mindful Kettle.

Rob March 7th at 5:13pm

Wes was my idol. He was one of the nicest and most humble music giants I've ever met. In person, Wes would play "impossible" stuff on the guitar. He was a true master of the guitar and was kind enough to give me advice and guidance. I will always be thankful and indebted to Wes Montgomery.

Thierry Lefèvre March 7th at 11:23pm

Nice Guy nice musician and i loved her music until the year 1975...also with her friend wes Montgomery ...:) go go go on ´s

jazzlabels March 12th at 11:48am

Nice words, Rob

marc March 21st at 1:42pm

J'ai découvert Wes il y a 30. J'avais 20 ans et je venais de découvrir pat metheny qui parlait de Wes comme une grande influence. Depuis ce jour, je considère Wes Montgomery comme le plus grand guitariste de jazz. Merci de m'avoir ouvert tant de portes. Sa musique restera éternelle

bernard zix March 21st at 8:35pm

Wes Montgomery Poet of the double-note, Imagination in flagranti, and he smoked cigarettes...

Sonya Winchell March 21st at 10:23pm

My now deceased 15 year old son's first jazz guitar idol and inspiration. I hope they are playing music together!

solrock March 21st at 11:35pm


GRADY LARK April 30th at 5:16pm


If, from the opening bars of Bill Strayhorn’s ‘Chelsea Bridge’, Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster does not grab you and demand your undivided attention there is no hope for you. This is an astonishing record of two giants of jazz at the very top of their game. Understated it’s been called and yes it is, but in so being it is making a far bigger statement. Less is more; cool is hot – Mulligan’s baritone sax is the perfect foil for the older Webster’s tenor.

Three of the tracks are written by Mulligan yet they sound like they are standards, so skilful is not just the sax playing but also the accompaniment of Leroy Vinnegar on bass and drummer Mel Lewis in the rhythm section but also the excellent Jimmy Rowles, whose piano sounds always just right. It’s been called, “the perfect record for a rainy day” and there’s no arguing the point.  Standouts are Cat Walk composed by both saxophonist and ‘Tell Me When’.

Gerry Mulligan Meets Ben Webster was made on two separate days in November and December 1959 at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles.

“Ben and I were a focused, near-functioning little band. That’s why it worked and of course it’s all related to our mutual esteem and musical rapport.” – Gerry Mulligan

The cover with both Mulligan and Webster is the original release while the other is a reissue with additional tracks.


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On 29April 1960 Thelonious Monk and Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers took to the stage for a sell out show at London’s Festival Hall on the south bank of the Thames. This  was Monk’s first appearance in the UK. With top ticket prices at £1 it seems remarkably inexpensive, but the average weekly wage back then was under £19 per week.

According to The Guardian newspaper, “Monk’s appearance on the stage maintained his reputation for eccentricity, a soft cap perched on his head, a tweed suit that appeared to have travelled from New York the hard way, and brogues that had that Brand X look. At intervals he meandered slightly loopily around the stage while his bassist, John Orr, pounded away at chordal progressions on another planet”

“But all this was small beer for those who cannot take anything stronger. The fact is that once Monk had got to work at the keyboard he revealed himself as still a profound creative talent. He does not take his jazz the easy way. Each note is apparently considered, weighed, analysed and then reluctantly committed to the audience. It does not make for easy listening, but why should it?”

The Jazz Messengers at this time were, Lee Morgan (trumpet) Wayne Shorter (tenor saxophone) Bobby Timmons (piano) Jymie Merritt (bass) and of course Art Blakey (drums).

We cannot find any Monk in London from 1960 but this was on the BBC in 1965

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