preview

Art Blakey

Better Essays
Art Blakey was born to a poor family in the heart of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1919. He was working in the steel and coal mills when he was only fourteen. There were no child labor laws in those times. He had to work to help support his family and put food on the table. Blakey turned to music as a way of escaping the exhausting day-to-day labor of the mills. Blakey taught himself how to play the piano. Even though he couldn't read music, and could only play songs in three keys, Blakey was a crowd favorite a several local venues. He used to make fifteen-twenty dollars a night in tips every night he went. At fifteen Blakey was leading his own band. They were small and unknown, but played at clubs all around the city.

One night while Blakey and his band were playing at a club, Blakey grabbed the sticks out of his drummers hand, and showed him how he wanted the drummer to play. Watched by the owner of the club, the show went on the same way for several more weeks. About a month later a young pianist named Errol Garner heard Blakey playing at the club and went up to offer him some advise. When the club owner heard Garner play the piano he told Blakey to get rid of his drummer, and play the drums himself. Blakey assured the owner he didn't know how to play the drums, but the owner showed Blakey the handgun tucked away in his pants, and Blakey argued no more. "It was now a matter of survival" said Blakey.

Blakey enjoyed playing the drums, and soon developed a unique style of play. He constantly used sudden dynamic shifts along with odd interjections. His style fit perfectly with Garner's idiosyncratic approach to playing the piano. This band still under the leadership of Blakey would only stay together about four...

... middle of paper ...

...Hubbard, Lee Morgan, and the greatest jazz player of this decade. Wynton Marsalis. He treated them as equals, and always let them know how special they were. He liked to share experiences and story's with his bands. He played life by the rules and laid off the drugs and alcohol that cost so many jazz musicians before him their careers, and/or their lifers.

Works Cited

Richard Cook & Brian Morton. The Penguin Guide to Jazz on CD. Seventh Edition. East Rutherford, NJ: Penguin Books(USA), 2004

Ted Gioia. The History of Jazz. Oxford, New York: Oxford Paperbacks, 1997

Vladimir Bogdanov. All Music Guide to Jazz. Forth edition. Ann Arbor, MI: All Media Group, 2002

Mark C. Gridley. Jazz Styles (History and Analysis). Ninth Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2006

The Best of ArtBlakey. Art Blakey, Bobby Timmons. Blue Note Records, 1989
Get Access