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*Art Blakey was born on this date in 1919. He was a Black jazz musician and bandleader.
From Pittsburgh, PA., Blakey was originally a pianist. He went to New York with Mary Lou Williams' combo as a drummer around 1939 and did yeoman service with Fletcher Henderson's band before joining Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, and other budding artists in Billy Eckstine's embryonic bebop band. Following his stay with popular singer Eckstine, he began working in New York clubs and contributing to recording sessions with Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk.
In 1954, Blakey directed his work into a combo founded with pianist Horace Silver that had Kenny Dorham on trumpet and Hank Mobley on tenor saxophone. With Silver departing, Blakey and company rolled on calling themselves the Jazz Messengers, and the ranks most always filled with superlative young players. Among those under his tutelage at one time or another in the '50s were trumpeters Bill Hardman and Lee Morgan, saxophonists Jackie McLean and Benny Golson, and pianist Bobby Timmons.
Tenor player Wayne Shorter, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, and trombonist Curtis Fuller were Jazz Messengers for part of the '60s, touring and cutting Blue Note gems like Mosaic (1961) and Free For All (1964). Although jazz suffered a commercial slump in the late '60s and '70s, Blakey carried on with other fine student musicians including Woody Shaw, George Cables, Bobby Watson, and Chuck Mangione. But it was the arrival of the 19-year-old Wynton Marsalis in 1979 that gave rise to widespread interest in Blakey's cooperative quintets, sextets, and septets.
Not even the Marsalis decision to go solo could impede the Jazz Messengers' momentum; Blakey remained a tireless dynamo of creativity and prize students like Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison, Robin Eubanks, Benny Green, Kenny Garrett, and Geoff Keezer improvised with creativity and emotional commitment. Only Blakey's death on October 16, 1990, could silence the world-acclaimed Jazz Messengers.
Jazz: A History of the New York Scene
Samuel Charters and Leonard Kunstadt
(Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y., 1962) p.73
by Harry N. Abrams, Incorporated, New York
ACSAP Biographical Dictionary
R. R. Bowker Co., Copyright 1980