We Remember Art Blakey’s Iconic Album “Moanin'”
Friday on All Night Jazz, we will be celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the recording of the album “Moanin'” by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers.
WUSF’s Carson Rodriguez Bugarin has more:
The album was recorded on October 30, 1958, at the Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
It features a diverse selection of music styles including blues, funk jazz, New Orleans-style marching band, and most notably, hard bop, a genre named after Blakey’s 1957 album.
Characterized by improvisation, complex harmonies, a swinging rhythm, and an aggressive percussion section, bebop had usurped big band as the primary form of jazz in the late 1940s, making the genre something to listen to rather than for just dancing.
Founded in 1954 by drummer Art Blakey and pianist Horace Silver, The Jazz Messengers became known as “Jazz University,” due to its role in finding talented young artists and shaping their skills and styles.
Many notable musicians like Clifford Brown, Donald Byrd, Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Benny Golson, and Bobby Timmons found their start with the Jazz Messengers.
At the time of this recording, the Jazz Messengers lineup was arguably one of the best Blakey ever assembled. It featured Art Blakey on drums, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Benny Golson on tenor sax, Jymie Merritt on bass, and Bobby Timmons on piano, who wrote the first song on the album, “Moanin’.”
The often-told story about that song is that Timmons had conceived the melody in his head and often played it informally in between songs and during rehearsals. One day Golson told Timmons that he should compose a bridge and make a proper song out of it, which he did.
To this day “Moanin’” remains one of the most easily recognizable and often-played jazz standards.
The song was so popular that the original album, released as a self-titled disc, was subsequently renamed after the song.
Other notable songs from the album include Benny Golson’s, “Are You Real?” “Along Came Betty,” “Blues March,” and “The Drum Thunder Suite,” specifically written to show off Blakey’s skill as a drummer.
This became Blakey’s most popular album, aiding in his efforts to promote jazz at a time when doo-wop and rock and roll had become the most popular genres. Alongside other tracks on the album, it continued to influence jazz years after its release.
In a 1973 interview, as Blakey reflected on his career, he noted, “…the funny thing is how our music goes in a circle. And since Benny Golson wrote “Blues March” and Bobby Timmons wrote ‘Moanin’,’ we just can’t get away from them.
“People demand them. Now they’re demanding more of the old things we did. We just recorded ‘Along Came Betty’ with Jon Hendricks; he put some words on it, with the permission of Benny Golson. It was a beautiful thing. There’s such a thing as going too fast for your public; they have to catch up… That’s how the cycle goes.”