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Release datum:
Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers
Umbria Jazz Festival, 1976

Art Blakey (drums)
David Schnitter (tenor saxophone)
Bill Hardman (trumpet)
Mickey Tucker (piano)
Cameron Brown (bass)

Backgammon (13:11)
Along came Betty (9:56)
Uranus (10:31)
Blues March (9:39)
All the things you are (5:40)
Gipsy folk tales (12:01)

When Art Blakey and his band The Jazz Messengers played at the 1976 Umbria Jazz Festival, there were luckily cameras around to capture the event. Thus TDK can now present this rare document in a digitally re-mastered version that forms part of their series of legendary Jazz live-recordings.

In its third season Umbria Jazz was at its height with unexpected numbers of audiences storming onto the idyllic medieval town squares in and around Perugia. The organisers had to stop and rethink the festival idea of free open-air concerts after that, but at the infamous 1976 festival jazz enthusiasts could enjoy giants like George Coleman, Dizzy Gillespie and Art Blakey who all came to the Italian region for performances.

Art Blakey’s be-bop was much imitated, but never bettered and his legacy – he died in 1990 - is so timeless that this 1976 concert sounds as fresh as ever. The virtuoso drummer and driving force behind the hard edged be-bop sound that redefined jazz in 1960s, was joined by David Schmitter on tenor sax, Bill Hardman on trumpet, Mickey Tucker on piano and Cameron Brown on bass.
They offered a concert that went through an hour of absolutely marvellous music - six titles like pearls on a string supported by Art Blakey’s inspired rhythmic foundation.
The recording captures the fascinated audience on a warm summer evening in the cathedral square in Perugia along with close views of the individual musicians and their interaction.

Right from the beginning of the opening number, Backgammon, Art Blakey proves himself master of percussion with his interpretation and multi-rhythmic artistry. Then Bill Hardman, the trumpeter from Cleveland, Ohio, enters and brilliantly takes over the leading role in the quintet. Next up is David Schmitter on tenor sax. His demanding interpretation is rich in musical ideas and he inspires the whole ensemble. And, finally, Mickey Tucker turns a whirlwind on the piano, wildly accompanied by Cameron Brown on double bass and by Art Blakey, who, with his second solo, brings the quintet back to the theme of Backgammon.

The theme of Along Came Betty is presented by tenor sax and trumpet in unison, followed by Bill Hardman on trumpet, who leads the number into a free improvisation supported by a walking bass. Cameron Brown also escorts David Schmitter through his own musical suggestions for Along Came Betty. A lively dialogue then ensues between bass and piano in the free association segment of the piece, with the returning theme closing the number.

Art Blakey and his Messengers lift off impressively on their way to Uranus. Blakey pilots his musical crew through the composition as if unleashed from another universe.
The fast-paced Blues March continues until Mickey Tucker introduces All the Things You Are with an almost melancholy solo, before the number comes alive with his breathtaking keyboard runs, with Blakey and Brown entering delicately and offering accompanying rhythmic support.
Gipsy Folk Tales once again offers each musician the opportunity to let his musical hair down, bringing a spectacular jazz evening to its conclusion.

The Umbria Jazz Festival was founded in 1973 by jazz enthusiasts. The series of free open air summer night concerts around the North Italian region of Umbria continued until 1976, when huge audiences, the fears of conservative inhabitants and left-wing radical disturbances jeopardised the festival idea. Reorganised in 1978, the festival now takes place in various venues in the city of Perugia, still sporting some free open-air concerts. Among the artists who have performed at the festival over the years are Keith Jarrett, Sonny Rollins, Randy Crawford, Michel Petrucciani, Phil Collins, Al Jarrau, Ornette Coleman, Van Morrison, Bobby McFerrin, Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Manhattan Transfer, Gil Evans, Miles Davis and Sting.