Drummer Art Blakey was one of the most influential bandleaders of the past 50 years, a musical mentor whose long-running band, The Jazz Messengers, served as an incubator for jazz’s top talent. The group recorded its first official album in 1956, its last in 1990. In the time between, The Jazz Messengers featured a rotating cast of musicians who would go on to become veritable jazz stars, including Wayne Shorter, Lee Morgan, Cedar Walton, Bobby Watson, Terence Blanchard, Kevin Eubanks and Wynton and Branford Marsalis.
Our song of the day comes from the group’s 1961 album A Night In Tunisia, which was recorded on this day (August 7) in 1960. It features Jazz Messenger standouts Lee Morgan on trumpet and Wayne Shorter on saxophone, as well as the endlessly soulful Bobby Timmons on piano and reliably solid Jymie Merritt on bass. The song is the title track, which was originally written by Dizzy Gillespie in the 1940s. Blakey’s version opens the tune up with an explosive drum solo at the start, followed by a breakneck spin through the melody and a soul-bearing coda.