I’ve been in something of a musical funk the past few days. For some reason, I simply can’t find anything that really “hits” me. To be sure, we’ve gotten some good submissions and trolling the internet has yielded solid results, but for some reason or another it’s all been underwhelming. This is likely a phenomena any music lover experiences and it’s times like these that I go back through my library in search of a forgotten gem, or simply something I’d like enough to warrant a post.
Jazz comes up a lot at times like these. It’s probably for a variety of reasons; foremost is that I love the sound and feel of jazz, even if I know next to nothing about it. I make no attempt to pass myself off as an expert or even one able to really understand jazz. It’s all feeling for me. I’m also not particularly knowledgeable on the history of jazz–I have the standard classics like Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme, and some others, but it all rests on a very surface level. So when I came across the legendary Night at the Birdland recordings of the Art Blakey Quintet, it was for no other reason than that I liked the cover. (I also liked the label, Blue Note, legendary in its own right.)
There’s a lot to like about this album. It’s a great, high-quality recording full of upbeat, tight hard bop. Every performer is in peak condition. I can’t give a proper description to this album, given my lack of proper jazz knowledge, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t simply sound great. It must have been a good night to be at the Birdland that night in 1954.
My favorite cut of the album is the balled “Once in a While.” No matter the mood, musical funk or not, the opening piano of this song never ceases to get me. Courtesy of Horace Silver, it shines throughout the track, touching up at just the right places. Clifford Brown provides the easy, beautiful trumpet that carries the melodic center of the track. Brown was killed only two years after this recording was made, cutting his career short to just a four-year span, but he plays on this track like he’s the absolute, immortal king.
There’s a mood to this song that gets me. It makes it hard to write about proper, but it’s the kind of mood that’s perfect to relax oneself to. You can listen intently, appreciate Brown’s doubling up on the time changes and moving between them seamlessly, or you can let it wash over you and simply drift.
Art Blakey Quintet – Once in a While