On August 7, Blue Note Records will release Just Coolin’, a never-before-released studio album by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers that was recorded on March 8, 1959 in Rudy Van Gelder’s living room studio in Hackensack, New Jersey. The session featured a short-lived line-up of The Jazz Messengers with drummer Art Blakey, trumpeter Lee Morgan, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, pianist Bobby Timmons, and bassist Jymie Merritt. The album features two previously unissued compositions including Timmons’ tune “Quick Trick,” which is available today to stream or download. Just Coolin’ can be pre-ordered now in several formats: CD, digital download, and an all-analog 180g vinyl pressing that was mastered by Kevin Gray.
The session for Just Coolin’ finds The Jazz Messengers’ saxophone chair in transition. The band had last recorded in October 1958 when they cemented their place in jazz history with the classic album Moanin’ featuring Benny Golson on tenor saxophone. By July 1959, Blakey had recruited tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter who would remain a fixture of the band until 1964.
The interim saw the return of Mobley, who was a charter member of The Jazz Messengers when the band first formed in 1954 and appeared on their debut recording The Jazz Messengers At The Café Bohemia in 1955. Mobley also filled an important role as the band’s resident composer. In fact, three of the six tracks on Just Coolin’ were written by Mobley: “Hipsippy Blues,” “M&M,” and “Just Coolin’.”
However, five weeks after the studio session Blue Note founder and producer Alfred Lion decided to record the band again at the legendary club Birdland in New York City on April 15, 1959, capturing an assured live recording that included four of the six titles that had been recorded in March. The Birdland sessions ended up superseding the studio date when Lion instead released the two-volume live album Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers At The Jazz Corner Of The World later that year.
“In 2020, it’s great to find more Morgan, Mobley and Timmons in their prime,” writes Bob Blumenthal in the liner notes for Just Coolin’. “The music had clearly settled in during the month that separated studio and live versions, but the fire of these six tracks has an appeal of its own.”
Now, 61 years later jazz fans all over the world will have the chance to listen for themselves.
- Hipsippy Blues (Hank Mobley)
- Close Your Eyes (Bernice Petkere)
- Jimerick (unknown)
- Quick Trick (Bobby Timmons)
- M&M (Hank Mobley)
- Just Coolin’ (Hank Mobley)
Credits for Just Coolin’:
- Lee Morgan: trumpet
- Hank Mobley: tenor saxophone
- Bobby Timmons: piano
- Jymie Merritt: bass
- Art Blakey: drums
- Original session produced by Alfred Lion
- Recorded on March 8, 1959, Van Gelder Studio, Hackensack, NJ
- Recording by Rudy Van Gelder
- Photography by Francis Wolff
- Cover design by Todd Gallopo at Meat and Potatoes
- Produced for release by Zev Feldman
- Mastered for vinyl by Kevin Gray at Cohearent Audio
About Art Blakey
Art Blakey was born on October 11, 1919 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By his early 20s Blakey was touring with bands led by Fletcher Henderson and Mary Lou Williams which brought him to New York City. After joining Billy Eckstine’s band the drummer became associated with the bebop movement and was soon playing with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk. It was with Monk that Blakey first appeared on a Blue Note session in October 1947, performing on what would be the pianist’s debut as a leader Genius of Modern Music, Vol. 1.
Blakey cut his own date as a leader in December 1947 with a group billed as Art Blakey’s Messengers, but it wasn’t until 1954 that Blakey delivered his first essential album with the recording of A Night at Birdland. Featuring an all-star band with Clifford Brown, Lou Donaldson, Horace Silver and Curly Russell that was billed as the Art Blakey Quintet, the album was an early hard bop manifesto, a thrilling live recording of the top young players of the day who were taking bebop in new directions.
It was with Silver that Blakey co-founded The Jazz Messengers, the genesis of a longstanding band that was first recorded by Blue Note live At The Café Bohemia in 1955. Silver eventually left to lead his own quintet, and Blakey took the helm of The Jazz Messengers for rest of his career. In 1958, the band recorded what remains perhaps their defining masterpiece. Originally self-titled Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers, the success of the album’s opening track “Moanin’” by pianist Bobby Timmons eventually caused the album to be known as Moanin’.
Although Blakey also recorded a series of solo albums that explored the influence of African drumming including Orgy In Rhythm, Holiday For Skins, and The African Beat, it was The Jazz Messengers that form the centerpiece of Blakey’s legacy. Over the remainder of his Blue Note years Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers recorded numerous enduring classics such as The Big Beat, A Night In Tunisia, The Freedom Rider, Mosaic, Buhaina’s Delight, Free For All, and Indestructible (his final Blue Note album recorded in 1964).
Blakey’s legacy with The Jazz Messengers throughout the group’s 35-year history lay in finding the most creative young players and composers to continually inspire him. The drummer recruited up and coming musicians, mentored them in his school of hard bop, encouraged them to compose new music, afforded them creative freedom, and once they were fully groomed watched them fly from the nest to become bandleaders in their own right. A partial list of Jazz Messengers Alumni includes Kenny Dorham, Hank Mobley, Benny Golson, Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt, Freddie Hubbard, Curtis Fuller, Cedar Walton, Reggie Workman, Branford Marsalis, Wynton Marsalis, Terence Blanchard, Wallace Roney, Kenny Garrett, Javon Jackson, and Mulgrew Miller.