The Jazz Messengers

Horace Silver

The Jazz Messengers
(Blue Note)

The Jazz Messengers

Kenny Dorham, trumpet; Hank Mobley, tenor sax; Horace Silver, piano;
Doug Watkins, bass; Art Blakey, drums.

1. Room 608, (Horace Silver) 5:19
2. Creepin' In, (Horace Silver) 7:25
3. Stop Time, [mp3] (Horace Silver) 4:05
4. To Whom It May Concern, (Horace Silver) 5:07
5. Hippy, (Horace Silver) 5:20
6. The Preacher, (Horace Silver) 4:15
7. Hankerin', (Hank Mobley) 5:15
8. Doodlin', (Horace Silver) 6:44
Produced by ALFRED LION
Cover Photo by FRANCIS WOLFF
Cover Design by REID MILES
Recording by RUDY VAN GELDER
[1-3,8] Recorded on December 13, 1954
[4-7] Recorded on February 6, 1955

Late in 1954 a quartet under the leadership of Horace Silver was playing at Minton's Playhouse. As a result of earlier successes on the Blue Note label, Horace's star was in the ascendancy and Alfred Lion was anxious to record more of his brilliant hard driving piano.

It was decided that this date would present Horace as a combo leader for the first time. He responded by getting Kenny Dorham and Art Blakey to join himself and two of the members of his Minton's quartet, Hank Mobley and Doug Watkins. Thus the Messengers were born, or reborn.

Actually the name had been used before by Art Blakey when he led a 17-piece band on occasional gigs, and a septet on Blue Note, both in the late Forties. The present Messengers have laid permanent claim to the name by their length of existence and their musical excellence. In most informed, aware jazz circles they are considered to be the most muscular, spiritually rewarding group to come along in the past two years.

Proceedings start with a fast unison theme, "Room 608" named for Horace's hotel room (Horace is hewing to the correct jazz line here, for hotel rooms have made jazz tune titles ever since Benny Goodman cut "Room 1411" in 1928). The ensemble is followed by two choruses of trumpet that will serve to convince you of Kenny Dorham's true ability. Seldom has he played with such fluency and assurance, in a style that seems to blend the best elements of both Gillespie and Davis. After two typically well-constructed choruses by Horace there is a series of cute unison breaks and piano fill-ins before Mobley takes over for a swinging solo. A rousing drum chorus precedes the return to the theme.

"Creepin' In" sets a wonderful minor mood--slow, slinky and funky. It is better listened to than described. Listen to it.

"Stop Time" [mp3] contains only 16 bars of fast unison theme and gives everybody a chance to accomplish what seems to me to be their best work on the entire session: Dorham, Mobley, Silver and Blakey all sit in the spotlight successively and successfully.

The open letter, "To Whom It May Concern," has scriveners Silver, Mobley, and Dorham spreading the word to one and all on the merits of getting to the heart of the matter and what it is all about.

Once when Horace was being interviewed in reference to the group he said, "We can reach way back and get hat old time gutbucket barroom feeling with just a taste of the backbeat." He was referring of course, to "The Preacher," an earthy swinger somewhat reminiscent of "I've Been Working On The Railroad" in its melody line. In keeping with the title, everyone "preaches" in their solos. First Kenny exhorts and then Hank follows with a bluesy sermon. Rev. Silver gives the benediction and the congregation answers him.

Hank Mobley shines on his original "Hankerin'" with a pace-setting opening solo that Kenny picks up beautifully before handing it over to Horace to expound on. Art has a characteristically telling solo before the close.

"Doodlin'" is a 12-bar blues in which the tenor creeps below the trumpet at whole-tone intervals in the first 8 bars. Note too, the humorous use of staccato notes in bars 8 and 9. Note more particularly Horace's superb comping behind the Dorham and Mobley solos, in which he sometimes gets a 12-to-the-bar feel.

This record proves again that the strength of jazz recording lies with the honest independents who are always the first to recognize and record real talent.

--IRA GITLER, from the liner notes

But Alfred never once said to me, "We want a few standards." There was only one exception. When we rehearsed "The Preacher" with the Messengers, he said, "What is that tune?" I said, "It's just a little tune I wrote on the chord changes of 'Show Me the Way to Go Home.'" He said, "Oh no, that's Dixieland. No, we don't want that. Why don't you just jam a blues, and we'll take that one out?" I was kind of crushed. I'm grateful to Art Blakey. He pulled me over in a corner and said, "Man, ain't nothin' wrong with that tune. Tell him you want to do it. They'll do it if you insist." I went to Alfred and said, "Look, Alfred, if you don't want to do that tune, why don't we cancel the session until I can write another tune? Because I don't want to jam no blues." He said, "Okay, go ahead and do it." And it became a big hit.

Cats Of Any Color,
by Gene Lees.

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