Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers

Formed in 1955 as The Jazz Messengers, the iconic jazz group was led by drummer Art Blakey (born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 11, 1919), who remained the only constant through all of its line-up changes. A depression era orphan who was sent down the coal mines as a child, Art Blakey started out playing piano as a teenager in Pittsburgh nightclubs until, as legend has it, a local gangster announced one night with a gun pointed in his direction, "Art, you on drums tonight". He went on to master a hugely influential percussive and improvisational style and The Jazz Messengers became a pillar of America's be-bop scene for decades. While commonly referred to as Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers, their albums have been credited to The Jazz Messengers, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, The Jazz Messengers featuring Art Blakey and various other similar names. The group’s classic albums include Hard Bop (1957), Drum Suite (1957), Cu-Bop featuring Sabu (1958), Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk (1958), Moanin' (1959), The Big Beat (1960) and Free for All (1964), all based around Blakey's genius drumming. The group evolved into a group where young jazz players could learn their trade and do their apprenticeship. Horace Silver (piano), Wayne Shorter (sax), Wynton Marsalis (trumpet), Wynton Kelly (piano), Lee Morgan (trumpet), Curtis Fuller (trombone) and Kenny Garrett (alto sax) all came through the ranks and went on to become acclaimed stars in their own right. Through the years, Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers adapted through swing, free-form jazz, hard bop, and avant-garde trends. Constantly performing and recording at an incredible rate, the band did have a slump in popularity in the late-1970s fusion period but made a resurgence in the 1980s with the Grammy Award-winning album New York Scene (1984). Art Blakey died of lung cancer on October 16, 1990 and was posthumously given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the Hall of Fame.

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