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Blakey, Art (Buhaina, Abdullah ibn)

jazz messengers monk piano

Blakey, Art (Buhaina, Abdullah ibn), famed bebop drummer, leader; b. Pittsburgh, Oct. 11, 1919; d. of lung cancer in N.Y., Oct. 16, 1990. He worked in steel mills as a youth, taught himself to play piano, and performed at night in local clubs. He claimed that he switched to drums after hearing his local competition, Errol Garner, on piano; it is also said that when the regular drummer was too sick to play for a ruthless gangster, Blakey had to step in to prevent disaster. He worked with several bands in and around Pittsburgh before moving to N.Y. and working with Mary Lou Williams (1942). He joined Fletcher Henderson (1943) for a year, then led his own band in Boston before joining Billy Eckstine’s Big Band in 1944. After leaving Eckstine (1947), Blakey led his own group, The Seventeen Messengers, and played on many freelance recording dates, including important early work with Monk, and longer stints with Lucky Millinder and Buddy De Franco (1952–53). A man of great warmth and also volatile temper, it is said that he punched Charlie Parker in March 1955 and that this helped precipitate the latter’s death. On occasion, he would lead a group of his own out of N.Y; when Horace Silver asked him to put a group together for some recordings, the Jazz Messengers were formed. Initially they were a co-operative consisting of Blakey, Silver, Hank Mobley, Doug Wat-kins and Kenny Dorham (later replaced by Donald Byrd), but when the other four left in 1956, it was Blakey who inherited the Jazz Messenger’s name, and he continued to lead that group, with many international tours. In 1971-72, he temporarily disbanded the group for The Giants of Jazz tour with Gillespie and Monk. Blakey was an amazing talent scout and the Jazz Messengers was the first gig of note for a remarkable number of famous jazz players, including Wayne Shorter, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Terence Blanchard, Keith Jarrett, Joanne Brackeen, Jackie McLean, Lee Morgan, Curtis Fuller, Bobby Timmons, Cedar Walton, Branford and Wynton Marsalis, Mulgrew Miller, James Williams, Donald Brown, and Johnny Griffin. A daughter, Evelyn, appears occasionally as a vocalist around N.Y. Blakey won a Grammy in 1984 for the album N.Y. Scene .

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