CD Review of Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival by Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz
Art Blakey and the Giants of Jazz: Live at the 1972 Monterey Jazz Festival
Recommended if you like
Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis,
John Coltrane
Label
MJF Records
Art Blakey and
the Giants of Jazz:
Live at the
1972 Monterey Jazz Festival

Reviewed by Greg M. Schwartz

R
ecorded live on September 16, 1972, this set brings together an all-star lineup of players around drummer Art Blakey for a genuinely classic performance. It wasn’t a one-off, as Blakey and most of this lineup were on the road for about a year, playing 42 shows around the world. By the time of this show, they were a fine-tuned unit.

Dizzy Gillespie was the trumpeter for most of that time, but left for other obligations with his own band before this show. Roy Eldridge and Clark Terry were recruited by Monterey impresario Jimmy Lyons to replace Gillespie for the gig, joining Sonny Stitt on sax and Kai Winding on trombone to form a top rate horn quartet.

The set finds the band alternating between swinging bop classics and elegant ballads. An extended opening jam on Dizzy Gillespie’s "Blue ‘n’ Boogie" is an immediate highlight, with saxman Sonny Stitt leading the way in stellar form over Al McKibben’s walking bass and Blakey’s energetic cymbal work. It sounds like some of the DNA for the Mos Eisley Cantina Band in "Star Wars" came from units like this. This eventually gives way to another section featuring Clark Kerry and Roy Eldridge on trumpets, with Thelonious Monk’s piano work providing primary rhythm.

Monk takes the gentle lead on "Round Midnight," with Stitt starring with him on the bridge. Playing with the Giants of Jazz was said to have revitalized Monk’s playing, with this period going down historically as his last hurrah before retreating into seclusion.

Blakey is the ringleader on "Perdido," the set’s other big jam, along with "Blue ‘n’ Boogie." Blakey lays down a toe-tapping rhythm, followed by the horn section laying down some great harmony work, before taking turns on one tasty solo after another. After the horns are done, Monk comes in with his own solo that keeps the head nodding. The horns lay back altogether, making it a trio of just Monk, Blakey and McKibben for a turn. The horns come back in at the end for a triumphant conclusion.

Terry’s trumpet introduces "Stardust" and provides a road map through the spacey ballad. It flows right into "Lover Man" and "I Can’t Get Started With You," as the band continues on a bit of a breather after the epic "Perdido."

The balladry continues on "The Man I Love" features Eldridge on trumpet, blowing his heart out.

"Night in Tunisia" brings things back up with a big intro by Blakey and the horn section coming on strong again. Terry bringing heat on the choruses, Stitt comes strong with a flowing solo that seems to ooze from the musical of the spheres. It all sets up Blakey to deliver a big, swinging signature solo that could be studied by drummers until the end of time.

The set may be a bit ballad-heavy for some, but "Blue ‘n’ Boogie," "Perdido" and "A Night in Tunisia" are worth the price of admission, with the three tracks taking up almost 40 minutes on their own.

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