Music for Intore and other African dances: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ A Night in Tunisia

Music for Intore and other African dances: Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers’ A Night in Tunisia

Jazz music, rooted in the African slave experience and its aftermath in America, is music that has maintained the link with the African American’s ancestral homeland. No instrument exemplifies this better than drums and, to my ears, Art Blakey was one of the greatest purveyors of this instrument’s tradition. Having spent two years in West Africa at the 1940s, Blakey returned to America enriched by his experience. Upon his return to the United States, he reportedly said that he had gone to Africa “to learn how the people there lived – especially about the drums.”  However, in later years, he disowned those words and declared that he had gone to learn about religion and philosophy, not about drums. 


Whatever the purpose of his African sabbatical, there is no doubt that his drumming was strongly like that of the great drummers of Africa. Much of his music triggers in urge in me to jump and dance the way we did in the villages of my childhood. 

The album, A Night in Tunisia, recorded on August 14, 1960, is a tour de force that consolidates African dance into jazz. The tune Kozo’s Waltz, a Lee Morgan composition, would be a perfect one for the Intore dancers of Rwanda and Bufumbira. Listen to its presentation here, on this excellent recording featuring Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass, and the great master himself on drums. 


The all-analog Music Matters Jazz vinyl reissue of 2008 is an excellent recording, with a wide stage and transparent presentation. At the time of this writing, Discogs reports that there are 88 versions of this recording. The Japanese EMI Toshiba vinyl re-issue from 1984 is a good option. An original, of course, will set you back hundreds of dollars.  I think you’d be very satisfied with the less expensive alternatives. Of course, digital, and streamed versions are plentiful.


Link to Kozo's Waltz

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