Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk

Artist: Art Blakey & Thelonious Monk

Year: 1958

Genre: Hard Bop

Grade: A-

The most innovative pianist in jazz history meets the most talented drummer. Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, including tenor sax player Johnnie Griffin, are the perfect match for Thelonious Monk’s angular arrangements and complex compositions. The rapport between the musicians is congealable. It’s clear that Monk isn’t the idiosyncratic outsider that the press originally made him out to be.

Monk’s herky-jerk rhythms and start-stop melodies originally seem to be a chaotic contrast to the Messengers’ aggressively uptempo style. Listen to the discordant opening lines of “Evidence.” But let’s not forget that Art Blakey was playing with Monk since the very beginning. Their longtime chemistry is always complementary.

This collaborative LP only goes to show that Monk’s musical personality meshes well with anyone. Meanwhile, Blakey can conform his dynamic drumming style to whatever the song requires of him. Even though all six tracks are Monk compositions, Blakey’s performance proves that he deserves top billing.

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