January 14, 1999
Though I adore Blakey and heard him live many times (in fact, he was my introduction to live jazz), I do not enjoy his soloing, which to me tends to all sound the same and boring boring boring. In fact, I've never considered Blakey to be the most imaginative or creative of players, but one with a sense of swing, drama, explosive power, and forward momentum that is almost unique. Max Roach, for example, I've always found to be creative but I am in that camp of listeners who finds him a bit stiff and less 'swinging' than someone like Blakey, and yes, I like Roach, too. Roach sounds more cerebral to me, whereas Blakey sounds more instinctual, which is maybe why I'd take Blakey over Roach for Monk, but Roach over Blakey for Herbie Nichols (to pick two pianists both drummers recorded substantial material with). And as long as I am blaspheming, another favorite drummer of mine, Elvin Jones, also has a distracting tendency to speed up during fills. Who was it that said that one's style is defined by their limitations? Nobody's perfect, thank god. And if you don't love Art Blakey, then don't bother listening to him. There are plenty of other great players. I would suggest coming back in a few years and trying Blakey again, though. Art's playing won't have changed, but your ears (or what's between them) may have (like mine did over the years, eventually growing to love players I once did not, like Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley, to get away from drummers for a moment).