Record Guide; JAZZ/POP
Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers: ''Straight Ahead.'' Art Blakey, drums; Charles Fambrough, bass; Wynton Marsalis, trumpet; Bill Pierce, tenor saxophone; Bobby Watson, alto saxophone; James Williams, piano. Concord Jazz CJ-168 - Over the years, many talented young musicians have passed through the Art Blakey Jazz Messenger bands, often to achieve prominence on their instruments in their own and other groups. Blakey's current aggregation of young players is certainly a high-spirited, frisky bunch - there's youthful energy to burn on this album, and Blakey, that veteran Pied Piper of jazz, continues to drive the music with his vigorous drumming. It's a live performance, and the audience screams and shouts as the Messengers steam their way through standards like ''My Romance,'' ''Falling in Love With Love,'' and ''How Deep Is the Ocean,'' and a couple of jazz numbers - Bud Powell's ''Webb City'' and Bobby Watson's ''E. T. A.'' The arrangements are loose and sprawling, with plenty of solo space, and the soloists are exceptional. Trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a prodigy in both classical music and jazz, shows a remarkable technical command of his instrument, and inventiveness in his solos, though at times he tends to sound a bit mechanical. Bostonian pianist James Williams plays with a plucky, dissonant, multi-noted attack, with a McCoy Tynerish influence sneaking in from time to time. He offers an energetic ''My Romance'' which ends in a lush cadence, embellished by cascades of notes. Saxophonists Bill Pierce and Bobby Watson more than do their part here, contributing bright, inventive solos. There's more verve than finesse on this set, but the mood is exciting, as it often can be when musicians take chances instead of playing it safe.