Jazz. Just the sound of the word makes many high school students run for cover. However, if they were to just look past what is played on NPR right before the traffic reports, or the stereotypical “be-bop” and “scat” that they are taught about in their music classes, they just might find something they like.
For example, they may find the classic 1957 “A Night in Tunisia” by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers. Blakey is considered to be one of the best and most innovative jazz drummers of all time. The way he plays ranges from sounding tribal to metronomic to melodic. The all-star cast assembled for this album includes Jackie McLean and Johnnie Griffin on alto and tenor saxaphones, respectively. McLean and Griffin are showcased on the album’s title track, along with Bill Hardman on the trumpet. Pianist Sam Dockery adds beautiful melodies in “Sincerely Diana,” but it is Blakey who steals the show with a beautiful drum solo.
The “hard bop” sub-genre of jazz is one that isn’t widely explored by many in our time. However, when listening to this album or any other hard bop album, it is easy to see the influence the genre has had on other styles of music, such as funk and hip-hop.
While this album is neither new nor “top 40” material, it certainly holds a place in music history. The timelessness of this work, seen in its influence on modern music shows, shows that while it may not be popular, it is not forgotten. If you’re willing to open your ears to a “new” sound, then I highly recommend “A Night in Tunisia” by Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers.