Monday, April 11, 2011

Art Blakey Jazz Messengers at Dutch Sesjun Radio Shows


Unique pictures of Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers at the Rotterdam Doelen concert (1980).

Hans Koert

Art Blakey en zijn Jazz Messengers treden op bij Sesjun.(Nederlands) Art Blakey Jazz Messengers at Dutch Sesjun Radio Shows (English)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the first 2cd album in the series The Sesjun Radio Shows featuring Chet Baker. Today the next 2cd album, which was released last year with parts of three Art Blakey Jazz Messengers Sesjun Radio Shows.

Review of the Rotterdam Doelen Concert ( 20th of April 1980) (Hans Koert archive)

The Sesjun Radio Shows were a weekly radio program, produced by Dick De Winter and hosted by Cees Schrama, transmitted since 1973 , and featured national and international jazz stars. One of them invited to play at the shows was Art Blakey.

The Doelen Jazzclub: a series of 7 Sunday evening concerts (1979-1980) ( Peter Koert archive)

Blakey could be heard in six programs between 1976 and 1983 - unfortunate three of them got lost. The 2CD album contains fragments of the three other Dutch gigs: At De Speeldoos in Vught ( 14th of December, 1978) and at the Nick Vollebregt's Jazzcafé in Laren on the 1st of May, 1980 and at the 27th of January, 1983. In the extensive liner notes, written by jazz journalist Jeroen De Valk, Cees Schrama revives his meetings with Art Blakey - great recollections of a great jazz drummer.

Art Blakey (1919-1990) ( The Rotterdam Doelen Concert - 20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

In 1980 I joined a concert of the Art Blakey Jazz Messengers at De Doelen in Rotterdam. I remembered that we had a great view to his sextet and I was able to make some unique slides during the concert. But, memories become faint and slides get lost .... Ten years ago I wanted to know more about the concert, like what was the concert date? Who were the musicians in Blakey's Jazz Messengers? Billy Pierce (1948) (De Doelen - Rotterdam 20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

I wrote to the former Dutch Jazz Archive and to De Doelen, but both authorities didn't had archived this information - finally I found a small review in a Rotterdam news paper, entitled Vitaal Optreden van Art Blakey, which suggested that the concert was scheduled at the 20th of April, 1980. Later I regained the ticket at my brother's archive, which learned that the concert was part of the Doelen Jazzclub (DJC), a series of 7 concerts ..... Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers was scheduled as the final ones in the serie of seven concerts. A few days ago .......... after an expedition of several months in my archives, I found the slides .... Bobby Watson (1953) and Billy Pierce (De Doelen - Rotterdam)(20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

When I had found out the correct date of the concert, I wanted to hear the music again ..... and I found out that Timeless had released an album entitled Art Blakey: Live At Montreux and Northsea, with recordings of the North Sea Jazz Festival in The Hague ( 13th of July) and at the Montreux Jazz Festival a few days later. I couldn't get closer to the original sound then these recordings, although I learned that Blakey was recorded at the Volksbuhne in East Berlin on the 3rd of May, 1980 with the same line up as in Rotterdam. Now, thanks to the Sesjun Radio Shows album featuring Art Blakey, we can enjoy now the music of the concert at Nick Vollebregt's Jazzcafé in Laren ( The Netherlands) scheduled on the 1st of May, 1980, ten days after the Rotterdam Doelen concert.

Art Blakey ( De Doelen - Rotterdam ) (20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

The members of Art Blakey's band were Billy Pierce on tenor saxophone, Valery Ponomarev on trumpet, Bobby Watson on alto saxophone, James Williams at the piano, he passed away six years ago, Charles Fambrough on bass and Art Blakey, the leader of course, on drums.

Bobby Watson ( De Doelen - Rotterdam) (20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

Art Blakey loved to play with young musicians in his bands: I'm gonna stay with the youngsters, he said during a live concert at Birdland (NYC) 1954, quoted by Jeroen De Valk in his liner notes, When these get too old, I'll get some younger one. Keeps the mind active.

James Williams (1951-2004), Valery Ponomarev (1943) and Billy Pierce. (De Doelen - Rotterdam) ( 20th of April 1980) ( photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

I only remember that the music of the concert impressed. I remember Art Blakey as the great legend grinning behind his drum set. The music was great, as the tunes from the concert of the first of May prove: Stairway To The Stars, Free For All, 1977 A.D. and of course his 20 years old hit, Blues March. Blakey loved to punish his drum set, wearing, against the regular Dutch etiquette, dungarees and sneaker. Bobby Watson, Valery Ponomarev ( in dungarees too (!)) and bass player Charles Fambrough (1950-2011). (photo courtesy: Hans Koert)

I remember Valery Ponomarev well, being the odd man out in my opinion, who was the only white one and, above all, born in Moscow. Mind that the world still had its so-called Cold War. When Blakey was asked why he had a Russian trumpet player in his band he answered: Don't tell me who should play in my band. Terence Blanchard opposed to this as well, saying: Damn, the man can play, why don't you focus on that? Bass player Charles Fambrough passed away early this year due to liver problems - he was looking forward to get a liver transplantation. Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - The Sesjun Radio Shows ( PRCD2010171)

I remember, after 30 years, the great drive of these Jazz Messengers and I'm really glad that I finally found the photos of the concert I joined in Rotterdam and the music of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers at the Sesjun Radio show, recorded 10 days after that Doelen concert - now available on a twofer entitled Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - the Sesjun Radio Shows (PRCD2010171). Last month the third twofer was released with Bill Evans.

Hans Koert

I remember Blakey as the man with the sneakers and dungarees who loved to punish his drum set. ... That's how I remember Art Blakey more then 30 years after the Rotterdam Doelen concert (1980) I joined, but memories become faint .... What date was this concert? Who were the other members of the Jazz Messengers? How did they sound? And where were the slides I made? Facts lost in the past! Last year a twofer by Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers was released with the Sesjun Radio shows and ...... I regained my slides .... just in time to join it with you together with a review of this great album...... The Keep Swinging blog loves to post these unique photos and hopes you like it. If you don't want to miss it, follow it at Twitter or ask the free newsletter

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