Art Blakey Goes to the Movies


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Back in October 2010, I posted twice (here and here) about a little-known Art Blakey session recorded in May 1956 in New York for The Cool Voice of Rita Reys, a Dutch singer. Onthe album, Jazz Messengers Donald Byrd (tp), Hank Mobley (ts), Horace Silver (p), Doug Watkins (b) and Blakey (d) accompanied a singer, a rarity for the hard-bop group. Another one of these superb Blakey oddities is the soundtrack to Des Femmes Disparaissent.

These tracks were recorded in Paris in December 1958 during a week-long European road trip by the Jazz Messengers—Benny Golson (ts) [pictured], Lee Morgan (tp), Bobby Timmons (p), Jymie Merritt (b) and Blakey (d)—recorded incidental music for a french film.

Much of the music was written by Benny, with some of the rhythmic blues pieces credited to Blakey. The 18 brief, improvised sketches and largely fragments, though I like to think of them as Jazz Messengers potato chips.

What you have here is an interesting series of incidental music sequences by the Jazz Messengers at the height of the hard-bop band's creative power. The music was recorded after a particularly prolific period for the musicians on the date. Moanin,' one of Blakey's finest albums, was recorded two months earlier in October. Blakey recorded Drums Around the Corner and Holiday for Skins in November while Benny recorded The Other Side of Benny Golson and Benny Golson and the Philadelphians in the months leading up to the trip.

According to Leslie Gourse's book, Art Blakey: Jazz Messenger (2002):

“Although American movies had not yet begun to employ jazz composers for soundtracks, French director Louis Malle had used Miles Davis to create the soundtrack for his Ascenseur Pour l'Échafaud in 1957. On December 18 and 19, 1958, Blakey recorded music for Édouard Molinaro' film Des Femmes Disparaissent (The Disappearing Women) with Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Bobby Timmons and Jymie Merritt; he would record music for Roger Vadim's Les Liaisons Deangereuses, on July 28 and 29, 1959, using French saxophonist Barney Wilen in place of Golson."

Note that these are largely concepts recorded to add tension behind scenes in this black-and-white film. But there are tracks that run over four minutes in length. If you're a fan of Blakey and this lineup of Jazz Messengers, you'll find these chips rewarding.

JazzWax tracks: The least expensive way to get your hands on Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers' Des Femmes Disparaissent is via download. You'll find it on Jazz In Paris: Jazz & Cinema, Vol .2. The movie tracks are Nos. 5 through 22.

JazzWax clip: Here are the opening credits and the Jazz Messengers' music to Des Femmes Disparaissent...

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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