This week we honor the late great jazz drumming icon, Art Blakey, who lived from October 11, 1919 until October 16, 1990. Art Blakey was a Grammy Award-winning jazz drummer and bandleader and is known, alongside Kenny Clarke and Max Roach as one of the inventors of the modern bebop style of drumming.
Blakey was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to a single mother, who he lost shortly after his birth. He was subsequently raised with his siblings by a family friend who became a surrogate mother. Blakey received some piano lessons at school and time he was in seventh grade, Blakey was playing music full-time and had begun to take on adult responsibilities, playing the piano to earn money and learning to be a band leader. He switched from piano to drums in the early 1930’s and adopted the aggressive swing style of Chick Webb, Big Sid Catlett and Ray Bauduc.
Blakey made a name for himself in the 1940s in the big bands of Fletcher Henderson and Billy Eckstine. He worked with bebop legends Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. In the mid 1950s, he formed a group with Horace Silver with which he would be associated for the next 35 years, the Jazz Messengers.
Although the Messengers were formed as a collective of contemporaries, over the years the band became known as an incubator for young talent, including such luminaries as Freddie Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and Wynton Marsalis. The Messengers are also regarded archetypal hard-bop group of the late ’50s.
A relentless performer, he continued to record as a sideman throughout his career frequently for Messengers alumni. He also led several percussion-centric albums with many of his peers. Art Blakey’s final performances were in July 1990. He died mere months later of lung cancer, on October 16th of the same year.
Learn the iconic style and feel that Art Blakey influenced so many other drummers with using John Ramsay’s brilliant instructional drum book and CD, “Jazz Messages“.
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