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Teasing the Korean

Help Me Understand the Art Blakey Drum Albums

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This is the time of year when I transition from drinking Old Fashioneds to classic rum cocktails.

And with this shift in cocktails comes a shift in musical preferences:  For this is the time of year when I bust out the Latin jazz and exotica albums.

Within and around these categories, I have accumulated over the decades a great many drum albums - African, Afro-Cuban jazz, exotica, and various hybrids.

I truly love most of these albums.  They produce an effect similar to that created by my favorite genres of electronica, lulling me into a near-hypnotic state that is subtly broken along the way with variations and surprises.

So each year this time, with rum cocktail in hand, I make my way through the LP and CD shelves to play each of these drum albums at least once.  And each year, I come across the Art Blakey drum albums - namely Orgy in Rhythm Vols. 1 & 2, Holiday for Skins Vols. 1 & 2, and (to a lesser degree) The African Beat.   I remember each year thinking to myself, "I did not like these so much last year, but can't remember why.  Something must have been wrong with me."  And each year, I play them again, to find myself once again disappointed.  

Well, no more.  I am writing down for posterity everything I don't like about these albums here, for handy reference next year.  And I would be interested in receiving input from my Organissimo friends as to what I may be missing.  I fully recognize that my "problems" with these albums may have less to do with the music intrinsically than with my expectations of what a drum album should be.  

I will listen to these albums over the weekend, and post my impressions. 

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There's something about these albums that seem "of their time"...a stereotypical notion of what "African" drum performances are like.  Lots of echo, lots of singing in tandem... more like they should appear on Folkways than on BN.  It's especially funny because I think Blakey admitted he'd never been to Africa.  

To be fair, I'm basing my views on Orgy In Rhythm, because I don't have the others.  I'm told they're all very similar, though.

It's interesting how different the Solomon Ilori albums are.

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4 minutes ago, mjzee said:

There's something about these albums that seem "of their time"...a stereotypical notion of what "African" drum performances are like.

Everything we listen to is "of their time".

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11 minutes ago, mjzee said:

There's something about these albums that seem "of their time"...a stereotypical notion of what "African" drum performances are like.  Lots of echo, lots of singing in tandem... more like they should appear on Folkways than on BN.  It's especially funny because I think Blakey admitted he'd never been to Africa.  

To be fair, I'm basing my views on Orgy In Rhythm, because I don't have the others.  I'm told they're all very similar, though.

It's interesting how different the Solomon Ilori albums are.

But for some reason, they are not as satisfying to me as all the other drum albums I have from this era.  I will spin them this weekend and report back. 

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1 hour ago, Teasing the Korean said:

This is the time of year when I transition from drinking Old Fashioneds to classic rum cocktails.

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1 hour ago, mjzee said:

It's especially funny because I think Blakey admitted he'd never been to Africa. 

After a good long while claiming that he had!

That Art Blakey...he was a rascal!

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This one?

38371326.jpg

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24 minutes ago, JSngry said:

This one?

38371326.jpg

I can see that one.  I'll trust you that it's the same image! 

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6 minutes ago, chewy-chew-chew-bean-benitez said:

and dont forget the cd-only "DRUMS AROUND THE CORNER" 

I had it and unloaded it.  Possibly the only BN album I unloaded.  

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I like Drums Around The Corner.  I think it's very different from Orgy In Rhythm; it's more a hard bop album with a lot of drumming.  Lee Morgan backed by 3 drummers and a percussionist - what could be bad?

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9 minutes ago, mjzee said:

I like Drums Around The Corner.  I think it's very different from Orgy In Rhythm; it's more a hard bop album with a lot of drumming.  Lee Morgan backed by 3 drummers and a percussionist - what could be bad?

Maybe I was in a mood.  I remember thinking that it wasn't jazz enough to be a jazz, and not drum enough to be drum.  Again, the problem may be me and my expectations. 

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I have Drums Around the Corner and listened to it once. I have never cared for albums that are drum centered, which probably explains why I only listened to Drums once and never bought the others. I don’t have the same reaction to bass centered records though. Perhaps it’s time to re listen to Drums. 

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Please don't get me wrong - it's more a curiosity than a great record.  But there's a great spirit of experimentation about it, and a great spirit of detente among some heavy drummers.  The fact that they were trying to figure out whether it would work, rather than trying to make a "great record," gives it a looseness I find appealing.

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It is hard for any non-drummer or non-percussionist to "understand" these discs. It's a simple as that.

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1 hour ago, mikeweil said:

It is hard for any non-drummer or non-percussionist to "understand" these discs. It's a simple as that.

So how is it that I have dozens and dozens and dozens of other drum albums that I love?  What is Art Blakey doing differently? 

Again, I will spin them this weekend and share specifically what bugs me about them, or maybe more specifically what it is that doesn't engage me.

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1 hour ago, mikeweil said:

It is hard for any non-drummer or non-percussionist to "understand" these discs. It's a simple as that.

That may be but it was not released until 1999 so BN may have thought it would have limited appeal. 

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You're talkin' about "Drums Around The Corner"? I think it's a general problem of people having problems of relating to music without melody instruments.

TTK, how many of your drum albums have absolutely no melody, no vocals? Just curious.

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27 minutes ago, mikeweil said:

You're talkin' about "Drums Around The Corner"? I think it's a general problem of people having problems of relating to music without melody instruments.

TTK, how many of your drum albums have absolutely no melody, no vocals? Just curious.

No, others brought up Drums Around the Corner.  You may wish to re-read my first post.  

In terms of the drum albums that I have, a few may have singing (sparingly, at the tops of the tracks) or a flute in places, but I picked up these albums for the drumming.

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Have you gotten tothis one?

 

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4 minutes ago, JSngry said:

Have you gotten tothis one?

 

LOVE IT!  One of the first ones I pull out every summer.  Got the 90s reissue at Stereo Jack's more than 20 years ago.  Sorcery by Sabu is another.

2 hours ago, mikeweil said:

It is hard for any non-drummer or non-percussionist to "understand" these discs. It's a simple as that.

I'm not sure I agree with this.  Rhythm is of course one of the key components of music, and as both a musician and informed listener, I am really fascinated by what is musically possible when melody and harmony are removed.  And drum records have certainly influenced my approach to piano, which, strictly speaking, is a percussion instrument. 

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I am a serious fan of Art Blakey, yet don't care for the drum albums you mentioned.

But to be fair, my attitude is the same for drum albums by  everyone else as well. 

As Mike said, without melody instruments it is hard for me to enjoy lengthy drum playing. I very much love the drum support to other instruments by Art Blakey and many other drummers.  Reasonably brief drum solos are fine in the context of a tune, but an all drum album is not for me.

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4 minutes ago, Peter Friedman said:

I am a serious fan of Art Blakey, yet don't care for the drum albums you mentioned.

But to be fair, my attitude is the same for drum albums by  everyone else as well. 

As Mike said, without melody instruments it is hard for me to enjoy lengthy drum playing. I very much love the drum support to other instruments by Art Blakey and many other drummers.  Reasonably brief drum solos are fine in the context of a tune, but an all drum album is not for me.

:tup Ditto to that. Exactly my feelings.

Edited by EKE BBB

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That's what I wanted to point out. 

Even drummers have that "problem", that's why most add some melody instrument or vocals to outline the structure of a piece. Few drummers / percussionist have enough sense of form to transport that without melody isntruments and without slipping into displaying technical chops. 

A great example for sense of form with drums only are Baby Dodds' 1940's drum solos. I will think of more examples.

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