Art Blakey

Art Blakey Biography

American jazz drummer, composer and bandleader, best remembered as founder & 35 year leader of The Jazz Messengers.

Born October 11, 1919 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Blakey was the foster son in a Seventh Day Adventist Family, learning the piano as he learned the Bible, mastering both at an early age.

In the early 1930's, at the Democratic Club in Pittsburgh where he was gigging, Arts' piano career came to an abrupt end as he was ordered onto the drums to make way pianist Erroll Garner. This incident was apparently at the gunpoint of the nightclubs' owner as Blakey later on often recalled.

This served as good fortune, & young drummer Blakey came under the tutelage of legendary drummer and bandleader Chick Webb, serving as his valet. Returning to Pittsburgh in 1937, he formed his own band backing pianist Mary Lou Williams. in 1939 joined & toured with Fletcher Henderson for 3 years, followed by a years steady gig at Bostons' Tic Toc club. Then as a member of Billy Eckstine's band, he played with the likes of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, & Sarah Vaughan. When Eckstein disbanded in 1947, Blakey organized the Seventeen Messengers, a rehearsal band, & recorded with an octet called the Jazz Messengers, the first of his many groups bearing this name. In1948 he visited Africa, where he learned polyrhythmic drumming & was introduced to Islam, taking the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina.

The early 1950s, saw him performing & broadcasting with such musicians as Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, and Horace Silver.

Blakey & Silver connected & formed the Jazz Messengers.

This band soon evolved into Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, as Blakey remained the leader with changing personal, playing together with them until his death.

From 1947 until 1972 he also recorded regularly with Thelonious Monk.

Blakey is a major figure in modern jazz and an important stylist in drums.

His contribution to jazz as a discoverer & molder of young talent over three decades cannot be overlooked.

- born: October 11, 1919, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

- died: October 16, 1990, New York City, New York

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