Art BLAKEY & The Jazz Messengers – The Witch Doctor 1961

Art BLAKEY & The Jazz Messengers – The Witch Doctor 1961
Recorded on March 14th 1961.
1999 Issue.


Into the third year of utilizing late-’20s superstars trumpeter Lee Morgan and tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter on the front line, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers were showing a progressive compositional stance, mostly due to the emerging creativity of Shorter’s sharply off-minor ideas. Pianist Bobby Timmons, a peer of the front liners, is swimming somewhere in the middle of this stylistic lake, exhibiting soulful backstrokes, straight-ahead sprinting, and the angular chordal complexities or sudden changes any potpourri of modernities might offer. Faithful bassist Jymie Merritt, no young pup at the time (seven years Blakey’s junior) is solid, unspectacular, and right where this band of stars needed him to be. Writing chores continue to be split evenly between the horn players, but Shorter’s pieces are distinct with a difference. “Those Who Sit and Wait” is a classic hard bop line with opposing non-sequitur melody/harmony cross sections, while “Joelle” sports two piano chords from Timmons leading to unusual phrasings, but still in a hard bop stance. Morgan contributes the title track and an alternate take with its typical and reliable hard bop shuffle buoying quirky horn and piano exchanges, and the spectacular “Afrique” with a 6/8 modal, choppy clave Latin beat merging to easy swing from the heavy tenor of Shorter — the best of three worlds. Timmons contributes “A Little Busy” which is not far removed from the soul-jazz he is known for, a fun and funky groove biscuit where the pianist is truly in his element. “Lost & Found,” penned by Clifford Jordan, showcases the straight-ahead signature sound the Jazz Messengers mined for decades — upbeat, happy and tight. Whether this was or was not the pinnacle for this great band is still up for debate, but it assuredly ranks with Blakey’s personal best aside from the popular album Moanin’ of the same time frame.
By Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide.
With Wayne Shorter and Lee Morgan in the front line, this was one of Art Blakey’s best Jazz Messenger units. Bobby Timmons, of course, could swing the section from start to finish. Shorter, Morgan, and Timmons were with the Jazz Messengers together through most of 1960 and 1961.
The Witch Doctor was recorded March 14, 1961. Blue Note has included an alternate take of “The Witch Doctor” with a slightly brighter tempo. While Shorter’s solo is more intense, Morgan’s isn’t as inspired as the original take. In all, however, the two takes of “The Witch Doctor” make excellent bookends for this reissue. Both “The Witch Doctor” and “Afrique” are Lee Morgan’s compositions. Art Blakey encouraged all of his Jazz Messengers to write, and the years (Blakey passed away in 1990) brought quite a few significant jazz composers into direct contact with his tutelage. Two tracks on this album are from Shorter and one is by Timmons. “A Little Busy” swings like his more-famous “Moanin’,” “This Here” and “Dat Dere.” On this one Blakey is a little busy with consistent press rolls and such while the pianist swings heartily. Blakey takes an extended drum solo on “Afrique” that demonstrates his power and melodic sense. Fours between leader and band take place several times on different tracks, and a drum “storm” arrives for “Those Who Sit and Wait.” The session swings from start to finish with moderate tempos, a walking bass, and a drummer-led snare drum pattern that combines Blakey’s constant ride cymbal behind his more powerful drum attack.
By Jim Santella.
Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, Jymie Merritt & Art Blakey! What’s left to say? Maybe the greatest incarnation of the jazz messengers, this line-up recorded about 9 albums for Blue Note, all of which are tried and true classics. No jazz group in history could touch the fury and ferocity of this sound. The players are all in top form here and the solos are mostly all quit memorable. If, like me, you have been waiting for this album to be released on cd so that you can finally hear it, you won’t be disappointed. in my oppinion this group could do no wrong. well worth the wait.
By Brandon De Cordova.
This 1961 session is less well known than many of the other Jazz Messengers’ Blue Note dates from the same period. THE WICTH DOCTOR is, however, a strong outing by the legendary group in its most prolific period. Featuring the classic lineup of Lee Morgan, Wayne Shorter, Bobby Timmons, and Jymie Merritt, Blakey and his Messengers groove hard on cuts like Morgan’s title track and the rhythmic “Afrique.” Shorter and Morgan make a grand team as always on tasty arrangements like Shorter’s “Those Who Sit and Wait,” working together on the melody and then blowing tremendously powerful solos. Blakey is in his prime, spurring on his younger charges with burning grooves and rhythmic waves that would crush weaker men. His intricate patterns on the aptly titled “A Little Busy” provide only a small clue of his overall drumming brilliance. Other worthwhile cuts include Shorter’s pulsating “Joelle” and the blistering screamer “Lost and Found.”
All of the players in this album are at top form. For some reason this album is often overlooked, though I enjoy it just as much, or even more than “A Night In Tunisia.” Even though all of the compositions are intruiging, “Afrique” in particular interests me. It opens with Blakey playing african rhythms, followed by Shorter and Morgan playing counter-melodies. In Morgan’s solo he reaches a climax in which he wrenches the most twisting, tart, almost painful sounds out of his horn. The Messengers all do quite a job, but in my opinion Morgan is the star of this album. This should not be your first Jazz Messengers cd, but if you are gaining an interest in them, then it is a must have.
Wayne Shorter- (Tenor Sax);
Lee Morgan- (Trumpet);
Bobby Timmons- (Piano);
Jymie Merritt- (Bass);
Art Blakey- (Drums).
01. The Witch Doctor 5:32
02. Afrique 6:57
03. Those Who Sit And Wait 5:54
04. A Little Busy 6:17
05. Joelle 5:13
06. Lost And Found 5:06
07. The Witch Doctor (Alternate Take) 5:33

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