Rabshakeh

Blakey's Groups/Records or Roach's Group/Records

40 posts in this topic

Serious question.

Two drummers who sit at the centre of the hard bop genre (although both ranged, Roach more than Blakey), who led numerous groups from the 50s to the 80s. Roach's groups and records never seemed to get quite the recognition that his peers' got, perhaps because they were on the wrong labels.

Who do you prefer as a leader?

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Roach by far. I have an appreciation for the Jazz Messengers, and I have nearly all of the albums from the 50s and 60s, but I've never found them very exciting-- Roach's dates are the complete opposite, always crackling. Just my opinion; especially in the 60s JMs are too laced up for my taste with a few exceptions.

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No preference, and on any given Sunday, it will depend what I'm wanting as to which one I reach for. 

In both cases, they're known quantities, and so are their records.

Although - I never reach for a Max record to hear Cecil Bridgewater. But one good Billy Harper makes up for that, and then some.

 

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1 hour ago, colinmce said:

Roach by far. I have an appreciation for the Jazz Messengers, and I have nearly all of the albums from the 50s and 60s, but I've never found them very exciting-- Roach's dates are the complete opposite, always crackling. Just my opinion; especially in the 60s JMs are too laced up for my taste with a few exceptions.

Yup, Roach for me too.  There's a LOT to like about Blakey's groups -- but even as good as they are, there's 1) also a bit of sameness to many of them, and 2) I don't think Blakey's drumming is as varied and 'exciting' as Roach's -- Blakey doesn't surprise me nearly as much.

Roach is still basically straight-ahead (advanced) hard-bop drummer, but I find his playing more exciting in the way I find Joe Chambers', Jack D's, or even Eddie Gladden's drumming (or Elvin as a sideman for Blue Note in the 60's, like with John Patton, etc...)  Blakey is "exciting" -- but he's never as EXCITING!! :excited: -- as all these other drummers I listed.

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2 minutes ago, Rooster_Ties said:

Yup, Roach for me too.  There's a LOT to like about Blakey's groups -- but even as good as they are, there's 1) also a bit of sameness to many of them, and 2) I don't think Blakey's drumming is as varied and 'exciting' as Roach's -- Blakey doesn't surprise me nearly as much.

Roach is still basically straight-ahead (advanced) hard-bop drummer, but I find his playing more exciting in the way I find Joe Chambers', Jack D's, or even Eddie Gladden's drumming (or Elvin as a sideman for Blue Note in the 60's, like with John Patton, etc...)  Blakey is "exciting" -- but he's never as EXCITING!! :excited: -- as all these other drummers I listed.

I agree with this. But it's the groups they led and albums that they released I'm thinking of here, rather than their drumming styles. 

Roach has Dorham/Rollins +4, Little/Coleman, Turrentine Bros / Priester, the Ray Draper records, Harper / Bridgewater, Pope / Bridgewater, plus all those great 60s vocal records with civil rights themes like Members, Percussion, Deeds, We Insist, etc.

Blakey has the Hardman/McLean/Griffin, Morgan-Hubbard/Shorter/Fuller, Ponomarev/Watson, and all the Young Lions groups. 

Both release streams of great hard bop records. Blakey probably releases more consistent product than Roach until 1965, but Roach has his strong 70s and 80s. 

I think I'd take Roach's groups by quite a long way. Just writing out the line ups above made me excited. There's such variety and risk taking. Not that I'd want to do without Buhaina's Delight or Free for All or Moanin'. I do agree with JS about that trumpet player.

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Some of Blakey's most exciting groups didn't get to do much recording.  Billy Harper passed through, Julian Priester passed through, Gary Bartz passed through, Carlos Garnett passed through, John Gilmore and John Hicks got to make one undistinguished album.   Woody Shaw/Carter Jefferson got to do some good recording on Prestige.  And so on.  And so forth.   And I think Bobby Watson's early contributions (writing and playing) were outstanding, as was (dare I say it) young Wynton Marsalis's trumpet work.

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Roach, Blakey, Silver, Miles - all fine incubator of talent.  Don't have to choose, I can enjoy them all.  And do.  What labels they were on affected both their opportunities to record and later reputations as some have had much stronger reissue programs than others.  If I had to choose, I'd say Blakey in terms of feel at least until he went deaf and totally overplayed.

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Blakey if I wanted to have something "safe" that just grooves.

Roach if I wanted to listen more closely and figure out things.....

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Getting into jazz just a few years ago led me into getting more exposure to Blakey’s playing. Those Jazz Messengers Blue Notes can be found easily on the used market and as a result I picked up a bunch. Definitely enjoy Blakey’s style. For whatever reason, when looking back on those initial buying days it does seem that Roach’s albums, outside of those with Clifford Brown, just aren’t as ubiquitous. So I haven’t listened to him as much. 
 

I first really tuned in to Roach’s playing on Slide Hampton’s Drum Suite. Roach blew me away on that one. Definitely the first time I picked up on what others have described as him playing the kit like a horn. It was an intense experience. 
 

Based on that, I’d go Roach here but mainly because I’m not as familiar. Would be interesting on a blind test if I could pick out either one. I have my doubts in that regard. I don’t think Roach growled as much as Blakey, so that would be a major hint I guess. 

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4 minutes ago, Dub Modal said:

Based on that, I’d go Roach here but mainly because I’m not as familiar. Would be interesting on a blind test if I could pick out either one. I have my doubts in that regard. 

I'll take that bet! :g

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Roach definitely, for the variety 

I tend to like the Blakey pre-60s bands more than the BN big hitters. Roach I like across the career.

 

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Blakey w/Wayne & Blakey w/Lee are imprint music for me. Especially with both of them in the same band.

Max with both Cliffords are as well

Max with Billy is pretty new soul-birthing for me. Some musics just create a new heart in me, renew a right spirit within me. And Max/Billy was one of those musics.

One of them.

Now, when it comes to overall output, yeah, Max, hands down, because Max did ALL kinds of badass shit, and Blakey pretty much did the Messengers, where some bands were significantly better than others. And pre-Messenger Blakey is good, really good, but these days is not really considered in the general conversation.

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I couldn't ever choose between the two.

Blakey was foundational in my discovery of jazz.  And, in some ways, I appreciate some aspects of Blakey's music now more than I ever have: The soulfulness and directness of it.  

But Max is Max.  His music is so important and so vital on so many levels. 

For me, it's an impossible choice.  

 

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All interesting stuff. Despite a couple of fence-sitters, this ship leans pretty heavily in one direction.

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The ship will right itself and return to an even keel. Messengers from 1954 up to 1964 or so are indispensable. Indispensable.

And not everybody likes Max post-Clifford, especially once the Civil Rights material begins. You're not hearing it here, but they are out there. Personally I think they're crazy and/or deaf, but...just sayin', they're out there, you'd be surprised.

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3 minutes ago, Rabshakeh said:

All interesting stuff. Despite a couple of fence-sitters, this ship leans pretty heavily in one direction.

Blakey could do things that Max couldn't.  And Max could do things Blakey couldn't.

Both changed the sound of a band from the drum chair.  Think about Thelonious with Max.  And think about Thelonious with Blakey.  Different worlds!

They're both complete musical personalities.  That's what makes them both irreplaceable, IMO.

 

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Different human personalities as well, different lifestyles, different goals and executions of them.

And believe it or not, not everybody who worked with them was totally enthralled with the overall experience. There was talk about Max wanting to play too fast and loud all the time, and of Blakey being, uh...as Curtis Fuller put it, "a rascal".

Eliminating either one from the picture, or even elevating one over the other, creates a gap that the other one does not fill.

In all honesty, I can do without any Messengers record from about, let's be very generous, 1976 or so onward. But so what? If Blakey had died in 1975 (which of course he didn't), the point would be moot. But for my purposes, from a musical standpoint he might as well have.

And now, most assuredly they are both most assuredly dead. So...yeah, my Max interest extends further chronologically than does my Blakey interest, but within my Blakey interest, that interest is quite keen. 

 

First tune on my first Blakey record, which was my first Blue Note record, which was one of my first 30 or so jazz records. How the hell does that not indelibly burn itself into your heart, mind, and soul.

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Posted (edited)

11 minutes ago, JSngry said:

In all honesty, I can do without any Messengers record from about, let's be very generous, 1976 or so onward. But so what? If Blakey had died in 1975 (which of course he didn't), the point would be moot. But for my purposes, from a musical standpoint he might as well have.

Jim, I strongly agree with everything you're saying -- EXCEPT for the statement I've quoted above.

I think Blakey's "comeback" band with Bobby Watson and James Williams is an important aspect of his legacy.  Listen to records like In My Prime (Vols. 1 & 2), Reflections in Blue, Album of the YearIn This Korner, and Straight Ahead.  They build on and extend what Blakey was doing from the beginning.  It's not just re-hash or regurgitation.  It's something different and new precisely because those bands had personalities of their own. 

Better than Wayne and Cedar and Lee and Hubbard?  Of course not.  But different?  Yes.  Unique?  Yes!

 

Edited by HutchFan

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49 minutes ago, JSngry said:

In all honesty, I can do without any Messengers record from about, let's be very generous, 1976 or so onward. But so what? If Blakey had died in 1975 (which of course he didn't), the point would be moot. But for my purposes, from a musical standpoint he might as well have.

Blakey's late 70s and early 80s records are core to the Blakey "mythos". A lot of his stature sits on his having supposedly reared the last ever Next Generation, who would go on to highly important positions in jazz as talking heads on universally acclaimed 10-part documentaries. 

Of course Roach did that too, Pope and Harper next quite went over in the same way.

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, Rabshakeh said:

Blakey's late 70s and early 80s records are core to the Blakey "mythos". A lot of his stature sits on his having supposedly reared the last ever Next Generation, who would go on to highly important positions in jazz as talking heads on universally acclaimed 10-part documentaries. 

Of course Roach did that too, Pope and Harper next quite went over in the same way.

"Blakey's late '70s and early '80s records are core to the Blakey 'mythos.' A lot of his stature sits on his having supposedly reared the last ever Next Generation."

I don't think this is true AT ALL.

Very little of Blakey's stature is connected to having Wynton, Branford, Blanchard, Harrison, etc in the band. (The converse, however, might be true to the extent that the imprimatur of having been a Messenger was a big career boost for folks who played in the band from the late '70s forward.) But Blakey's well-earned position in the pantheon has everything to do with the bands and recordings he led from 1953-65; and, secondarily with his recording career outside the Messengers and relationships with Monk, Miles, etc.. In distant third would be his role in later decades as a generalized keeper of the straight-ahead flame regardless of who was in the band. Blakey did get a bump of attention in the 80s during the Young Lion era, but a lot of the coverage was about how long he had been in the game of bringing up young musicians. I know of no critic or musician, including those who played in the band, who puts any of the later records on the same level as best of those from the 1950s and '60s. I'm not saying there aren't some quality later recordings -- there are -- but to suggest they are "core to the Blakey mythos" strikes me as wildly overstated and unsupportable.

 

 

 

Edited by Mark Stryker

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1 hour ago, Rabshakeh said:

Blakey's late 70s and early 80s records are core to the Blakey "mythos". A lot of his stature sits on his having supposedly reared the last ever Next Generation, who would go on to highly important positions in jazz as talking heads on universally acclaimed 10-part documentaries. 

Of course Roach did that too, Pope and Harper next quite went over in the same way.

I don't really understand this viewpoint.

I started listening to Jazz at the time of those albums and Blakey's mythos was well and truly in place by then. He was ART BLAKEY beloved of the Jazzdance crew as much as standard bearer for all things "proper" (read acoustic) Jazz. 

His appearances at Ronnie's were like meetings of the believers come to witness - mythos in action. I suspect most people came to see AB irrespective of who was in the line up. "Let's go and catch Donald Harrison at Ronnie's tonight, he's playing with some old drummer" wasn't much heard in Soho I hazard to guess :)

The contemporaneous releases were listened to but were no way held in the esteem of the BNs.  I'd go as far as to say that for some they actually created small dents of disappointment in that mythos you mention - debate upthread notwithstanding.

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I can confirm that Ronnie’s was packed out with ‘believers’ of all ages in those comeback appearances late 70s/early 80s (remember having to sit on the floor on one of them). The reputation was, as Mark says, largely from the 50s and 60s work.

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Ronnie's carpet sitting, lovely!

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