Personalities | Art Blakey | Fifties | Jazz & Blues

(Drums, 1919–90)

Art Blakey (also later known as Buhaina or simply Bu after he converted to Islam) led the quintessential hard bop group the Jazz Messengers across four decades from the late 1940s, and was a fervent advocate of the music he loved. He formed his first band in his native Pittsburgh, but moved to New York and played in Billy Eckstine’s seminal big band in 1944–47, before relaunching his career as a bandleader with the Seventeen Messengers.

Blakey first used the Jazz Messengers’ name in collaboration with Horace Silver from 1956. The band had a horns-plus-rhythm set-up in quintet and sextet forms and defined hard bop, spicing bebop with the earthy urgency of blues, gospel and R&B. Blakey’s propulsive drumming drove a band whose changing personnel – including trumpeters Lee Morgan, Freddie Hubbard and Wynton Marsalis, saxophonist Wayne Shorter, trombonist Curtis Fuller and pianist Bobby Timmons – was remarkable.

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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz & Blues, founding editor Howard Mandel


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