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The Big Beat (1960)

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Bobby Timmons

Perhaps the best known and most loved of Art Blakey's works, The Big Beat is a testament to the creative progress of one of the best jazz drummers of all time. Now over 40 years old, The Big Beat is as thunderous as ever. Here, Blakey combines his rhythm with tenor saxophonist Wayne Shorter's brilliant composing to make what could only be termed a "structurally raw" album. Each track rips through bebop as quickly as Blakey ripped through drum heads. "Dat Dere" and "Lester Left Town" stand out as part of the true canons for hot jazz. Two alternate versions of "It's Only a Paper Moon" round out the album, both brimming with the fluid integrity of the song and the drive only Blakey could provide. As one of the few drummers to step out and lead, not just play backup, Blakey created a true jazz treasure in The Big Beat. ~ Christopher Fielder