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Blue Note Records unearths unreleased recording of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messenger’s First Flight To Tokyo

The legendary jazz label is releasing First Flight to Tokyo for the first time, a live recording of the legendary group drummer captured at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo on January 14, 1961.

First Flight to Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings was captured during Art Blakey and his band’s first tour of Japan. The Jazz Messengers were among the first modern jazz groups to tour the country and Japanese audiences were able to experience one of their all-time great line-ups, featuring the legendary drummer alongside Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano and Jymie Merritt on bass. 

The concert featured soaring performances of well-known jazz standards including Charlie Parker’s “Now’s the Time,” Thelonious Monk’s “’Round About Midnight,” and Jazz Messenger hits including “Blues March,” “Dat Dere,” and “Moanin’,” available below. 

The performances were captured at the end of a tour that resulted after Blakey was crowned in a Japanese magazine poll as the American musician that the country’s jazz fans were most eager to experience in person,” writes jazz critic Bob Blumenthal in the liner notes. “Over the first two weeks of January 1961 the Messengers performed in several major Japanese cities and were received as artistic heroes wherever they appeared.” 

Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers – Moanin’ (Live at Hibiya Public Hall, Tokyo, Japan 1/14/61)

First Flight to Tokyo will be released on November 5 in deluxe 2-LP vinyl and 2-CD editions, both of which come with elaborate booklets featuring rare photos by Japanese photographers Shunji Okura and Hozumi Nakadaira; an historical essay by acclaimed jazz critic Bob Blumenthal; plus new interviews with Blue Note president Don Was, celebrated saxophonist Lou Donaldson, Japanese jazz star Sadao Watanabe, renowned Japanese music critic Reiko Yukawa, Blakey’s son Takashi Blakey, and a trio of drumming greats: Louis Hayes, Billy Hart and Cindy Blackman Santana. 

First Flight to Tokyo : The Lost 1961 Recordings by Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers, out on November 5 via Blue Note Records.