Personnel: Art Blakey (drums); Sonny Stitt (alto & tenor saxophones); McCoy Tyner (piano); Art Davis (bass).
Producer: Bob Thiele.
Reissue producer: Michael Cuscuna.
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on July 16, 1963. Includes original release liner notes by Dan Morgenstern.
Digitally remastered using 20-bit technology by Erick Labson (MCA Studios).
Taking a step outside his Jazz Messengers ensemble, Art Blakey recorded a leisurely session for Impulse! In 1963 with friend Sonny Stitt and the then youngsters McCoy Tyner and Art Davis. A JAZZ MESSAGE, however, is not an insignificant session, but rather a grand documentation of the natural talent of these remarkable artists. Indeed, the session has the feel of a Sunday afternoon jam where four friends have come together to enjoy each other's company and talents. The group's loose approach, with little regard for any details save the music, gives the tunes a freshness that is sometimes lacking when arrangements are overly complicated.
From the opening romp of "CafT," the energy flows freely as Blakey drives the quartet with his powerful drumming. Gershwin's perennial "Summertime" is given an easy-going swing and provides a pleasant take on the often-overworked standard. Likewise, Tyner's "Blues Rack" is a simple traditional blues that serves as a springboard for some fine blowing by all. Finally, the always uplifting "The Song Is You" is a gentle swinger that closes the session with a smile that, in the end, is the best message of all.