The Messenger Legacy
One hundred years ago, on October 11, 1919, Art Blakey was born in Pittsburgh, the man who, along with other pioneers like Max Roach and Kenny Clarke, would change the sense of drums in modern jazz and define the role of the drummer. Archetype of the bop percussionist, between the 40s and 50s we find him behind Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis. The story of the new jazz that was being born had the rhythm of Art Blakey’s drums.
Not only: from the mid 50s, for thirty-five years, until his death in 1990, Blakey led his Jazz Messengers, the group that was the symbol of hard bop.The Jazz Messengers invented what would later become the reference model for those who wanted to play modern bop with strong black roots, with lots of blues, gospel, soul. In addition to being the leader, Blakey was the guarantor of the band’s stylistic continuity, despite the many musicians who came and went in his groups. These include Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Wynton and Branford Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Donald Byrd, Johnny Griffin, Freddie Hubbard, Jackie McLean, Woody Shaw, Hank Mobley.
The centenary of such a colossus could not have gone unnoticed. To celebrate him, the project The Messenger Legacy was formed, a band which includes some of the musicians of the later editions of Jazz Messengers: the saxophonists Bobby Watson and Bill Pierce, the trumpeter Brian Lynch, the pianist Geoffrey Keezer, the bassist Curtis Lundgren. On drums, Ralph Peterson Jr. and could not have been otherwise: it was the then very young Peterson that Blakey chose as the second drummer of the big band that he conducted until his death. Mindful of his mentor, Peterson created the project and assembled the band, a fitting tribute to one of the greatest characters in the history of jazz.