Veteran drummers ART BLAKEY and JACK DeJOHNETTE run their bands as elite graduate schools for talented young musicians. Blakey has a knack for discovering unknown musicians and pushing them to their full potential with his hard-bop drumming. DeJohnette takes young avant-garde players who have already made a name and forces them with his precise, melodic drumming to become more disciplined.
Blakey and DeJohnette are both superlative drummers, as well, and their muscular momentum and finely shaded phrasing form the heart of their albums.
Blakey's "Oh -- By the Way" is his first album since losing his most recent famous alumnus, Wynton Marsalis. When Marsalis left, he recommended 19-year-old trumpeter Terence Blanchard and 21-year-old alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. They and newcomer pianist Johnny O'Neal join Blakey and holdovers Bill Pierce and Charles Fambrough in the new Jazz Messengers.
Every band member but Blakey contributes a composition. Blanchard doesn't yet have Marsalis' rare brilliance, but he has a bright, attractive tone and an agile touch that stays in front of Blakey's hard-charging rhythm on his own title tune. Blanchard pays tribute to Miles Davis on a lovely version of "My Funny Valentine" and Harrison pays tribute to Charlie Parker with the brisk original "Duck Soup."
The album's best cut, though, is "One by One," by Messenger alumnus Wayne Shorter; Pierce's tenor sax moves supplely through the melody and variations as Blakey supplies sparse but sure backing.
For "Inflation Blues," DeJohnette uses John Purcell and Chico Freeman on reeds, Baikida Carroll on trumpet and Rufus Reid on bass. The three horn players use the full new music vocabulary of squeals, squawks, drones, chromatic runs and modal variations. DeJohnette supplies the necessary gravity to keep the horns in a tight orbit around his five strong compositions. The listener is treated to the expanded vocabulary of the avant-garde plus the discipline of traditional jazz compositions. DeJohnette seeks the foreground much more than Blakey does; where Blakey drives with his drums, DeJohnette sings with his. His palette of tones and accents adds to the tropical sounds of "The Islands" and to the ricocheting eruption of "Starburst." The leader even adds vocals and clavinet to his reggae-based protest tune "Inflation Blues." ON RECORD, ON STAGE THE ALBUMS ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS -- Oh -- By the Way (Timeless SJP 165). JACK DeJOHNETTE'S SPECIAL EDITION -- Inflation Blues (ECM 23790-1). THE SHOWS ART BLAKEY & THE JAZZ MESSENGERS, with Dizzy Gillespie and Jon Faddis, Sunday at 9:20 p.m. in the Opera House. JACK DeJOHNETTE'S SPECIAL EDITION, with Jo Jones, Sunday at noon in the Opera House. Both concerts part of the Kool Jazz Festival.