Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. Buhaina, produced by Orrin Keepnews. BGP records BGPD 1114
Originally released on Prestige in 1973, Buhaina has been re-released by BGP Records, and yes vinyl fans, released on vinyl! Buhaina was me of the four main albums Blakey cut for Prestige around his time and ever since has been not that easy to find, so this record’s appearance is welcome news. It has to be admitted though that this era Jazz Messengers were not comparable to those of other decades, and whilst Blakey could still create a storm he wasn’t as thunderous as he could be, in earlier or indeed, later years. But that said, an with the fear that so many weather metaphors I am fast becoming Suzanne Charlton., it should be noted that this is till a good album.
Buhaina is an album very much of its time, with electric piano of Cedar Wilson dominating throughout with a 70’s jazz funk(ish) groove (which of course makes it very fashionable with today’s acid jazzers). Walton, a long standing Messenger, is especially entertaining on his own composition, Mission Eternal and A Chant For Bu. Elsewhere, Jon Hendricks lends vocals to new versions of Along Came Betty and the classic Moanin. Incidentally, Hendricks sounds here, more than ever, like a male Nina Simone – which is a little weird. As for Blakey himself, he for the most part keeps the pyrotechnics in check, with really only Mission Eternal having a real Blakey run through. The stand out number though is, A Chant For Bu, a track written by Mickey Bass especially for him (Buhaina was Blakey’s Muslim name, which friends shortened to Bu). The track itself is a nice marriage of Blakey’s hard bop roots and is the funk fashion of the time. As well as Walton, there is also some solid trumpet playing from Woody Shaw.
The stand out number though is, A Chant For Bu
The sound is no better than any decent compact disc would be with some of the musicians quite hard to find: guitarist Michael Howell for example, seems to stray from time to time. So vinyl junkies can decide on whether here, the pros of the 12inch lacquered artefact are outweighed by the cons. The major con for me in this particular case being that, in transportation, it has got badly warped. For the first few plays the tonearm resembled a rodeo rider. Still, by pilling three months of assorted newspapers and magazines on top of it (obviously when not being played) the problem was rectified. Although the house looked like a pigsty.
In all honesty there are better Art Blakey albums that Buhaina but still, a Blakey album, even a middleweight one, is always a joy to listen to. If you are unacquainted with him I’d suggest you try his Blue Notes releases first, but if you already have done so and want to expand your collection, then Buhaina is for you.