Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers perform in previously unreleased Tokyo live recording

A previously unreleased live recording finds Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers performing on their first tour of Japan in 1961.

First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings, which is set to be released this November by Blue Note, was captured at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo on Jan. 14, 1961.

The Jazz Messengers were among the first modern jazz groups to tour Japan. The audiences treated to one of the band’s all-time great line-ups featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass.

The concert featured performances of well-known jazz staples including Charlie Parker’s Now’s the Time and Thelonious Monk’s ‘Round About Midnight, as well as the Jazz Messengers’ own hits including Blues March, Dat Dere and Moanin’.

The deluxe two-disc vinyl and CD editions come with elaborate booklets featuring rare photos by Japanese photographers Shunji Okura and Hozumi Nakadaira, an essay by acclaimed jazz critic Bob Blumenthal, and new interviews with Wayne Shorter in conversation with Blue Note president Don Was, celebrated saxophonist Lou Donaldson, Japanese jazz star Sadao Watanabe, renowned Japanese music critic Reiko Yukawa, Blakey’s son Takashi Blakey, and drum greats Louis Hayes, Billy Hart and Cindy Blackman Santana.

“The performances were captured at the end of a tour that resulted after Blakey was crowned in a Japanese magazine poll as the American musician that the country’s jazz fans were most eager to experience in person,” Blumenthal writes in the liner notes.

“Over the first two weeks of January, 1961, the Messengers performed in several major Japanese cities and were received as artistic heroes wherever they appeared. This outpouring by the Japanese public, plus the concert and broadcast settings in which the band was presented, were a far cry from the treatment and working conditions commonplace in the USA and made a great impact on Blakey, who responded with a keen appreciation of his newfound role as international representative of his art form. If the Blakey/[Horace] Silver partnership had established the Jazz Messengers style, and the tour [Benny] Golson’s edition undertook at the end of 1958 introduced the band to European audiences, then this first visit to Japan made the Messengers a worldwide phenomenon and cemented what would prove to be its most loyal fan base.”

The album was co-produced by Zev Feldman and David Weiss, with the audio having been newly transferred from the original quarter-inch tape reels. The vinyl edition was mastered by Bernie Grundman.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Now’s the Time
  2. Moanin’
  3. Blues March
  4. The Theme
  5. Dat Dere
  6. ‘Round About Midnight
  7. Now’s the Time (Version 2)
  8. A Night in Tunisia
  9. The Theme (Version 2)

First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings arrives Nov. 5 via Blue Note.


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