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A mind-boggling collection

The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Art Blakey's 1960 Jazz Messengers
The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Art Blakey's 1960 Jazz Messengers
By Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers

Mosaic Records: 1992

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This review first appeared in the December 11, 1992 issue of the North County Blade-Citizen (now North County Times).

Much as with Count Basie, most discussion among jazz fans of the late drummer Art Blakey revolves around which edition of his band was the best. Of course, such arguments can't be resolved (thus the fun of them), but most Blakey fans would list the 1960 combo as among the top, what with young sensations as trumpeter Lee Morgan, saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Bobby Timmons.

This generous six-CD boxed set (also available in a 10-LP version) from the mail-order and online only Mosaic Records features all the recordings the Jazz Messengers made for release in 1960, plus a couple of previously unreleased tracks.

It's a mind-boggling collection of music, with some incredible blowing by Morgan and Shorter, and great versions of songs such as "Night in Tunisia," ""Round About Midnight" and "When Your Lover Has Gone." Blakey's drumming, too, is at the top of his form, with multilayered rhythmic figures driving his band of younger protégés.

The sound quality, as with everything Mosaic does, is stellar. The liner notes are both exhaustive and entertaining, and accompanied by numerous photographs of the band members. This is far more than a mere record collection or boxed set; this is a comprehensive documentary of a year in the musical life of one of jazz's greatest bands.