Renowned UK pianist Leon Greening leads a sextet dedicated to one of his musical heroes in a new project, celebrating the music of the great Art Blakey Sextet. Leon is joined by Vasilis Xenopoulos (tenor), Steve Fishwick (trumpet), Joe Fenning (trombone), Conor Chaplin (bass) and Matt Home (drums).
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers were one of the most important and influential groups in the history of jazz. Spearheading the hard bop style in jazz from the early 1950’s, Blakey led various incarnations of the group from the drum set right up until his death in 1990. The group was a masterclass for brilliant young jazz talent and it was a true jazz honour to be and have been a ‘Jazz Messenger’. Most of Blakey’s proteges went on to establish very successful careers leading their own groups.
The idea for this project is to arrange and play some of the Jazz Messenger’s lesser known tunes from the band’s most important period from 1958 to 1964. This period was especially strong because Blakey had two superlative line ups that provided some of the most classic compositions and soloists. These included the quintet from 1958-1961 famous for ‘Moanin’ and ‘Blues March’ which featured Benny Golson on tenor sax, Lee Morgan on trumpet, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass, and the sextet from late 1961-1964 which featured Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, Reggie Workman on bass and of course Blakey driving it all from the drum kit.
The music performed is taken from albums from that period including ‘Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’, ‘The Big Beat’, ‘The Freedom Rider’, ‘Roots and Herbs’, ‘The Witch Doctor’, ‘Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers on Impulse!’, ‘Mosaic’, ‘Buhaina’s Delight’, ‘Three Blind Mice’, ‘Free For All’ and ‘Indestructible’.
Pianist Leon Greening’s hard swinging style has made him a favourite on the jazz scene for over a decade, and he makes no apologies for his adoration of the great bebop pianists, with Wynton Kelly, Bobby Timmons and Bud Powell among his influences.