Jazz Review: Jazz Messengers Play Along Came Betty

August 7, 2018

When Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers band recorded "Moanin'" in the 1950s (the tune that became famous thanks to a Japanese TV program), Art Blakey's band recorded some other tunes that have since become jazz standards. One of these was the Benny Golson composition "Along Came Betty". 

 

The tune "Along Came Betty" is fairly similar to Benny Golson's other composition: "Killer Joe". Killer Joe is one of the most-played jazz standards, particularly in the soul jazz world, but has been performed by musicians outside soul jazz, including Tito Puente and Toots Thielemans

 

Like "Killer Joe", "Along Came Betty" has a simple A section and a more harmonically-complex bridge. This can be heard on the version of the tune played on the Jazz Messengers' album, Moanin'

 

The version of "Along Came Betty" described in this jazz review is included in the video above. The video can be found on the YouTube website at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CTzRHq_cH5E

 

The Jazz Messengers' version of "Along Came Betty" begins softly and its tension increases little, if at all, throughout the playing of the melody. After the melody, trumpeter Lee Morgan begins to solo and temporarily changes the mood before the recording more-or-less settles back to its pre-improvisational state. Lee Morgan's solo builds somewhat closer to the end (emotionally as well as musically), when the piano begins to accompany Morgan once again after a temporary hiatus during the first part of Morgan's solo. 

 

Along Came Betty's slow but steady construction of solid musical emotions is somewhat materialized by Golson and the fragility is largely removed from the mood of the song after the three-minute mark. However, soon after Golson fully removes the fragility and while he is still building a good solo over his own composition, his solo ends and it is the pianist's turn. Timmons' solo is not as solid as would be expected, to a partial extent reflecting the mood of the theme and, to a larger extent, the mood of Lee Morgan's solo. 

 

Then, a "second melody" is played by the group - one that is played as if it were the actual melody when it really isn't. After the "second melody" played, the group returns to the bridge of Along Came Betty, the group plays the final A section of the tune, and they close the recording quite simply. 

The mood of the tune is at least interesting, but it is hard to connect with. It's hard to exactly call this a likeable version of the tune, but at the same time there are very few tunes like it, especially in an era when almost every soul jazz recording had the same mood. Therefore, it is worth listening to, especially for those who like soul jazz. 

 

MUSICIANS

 

Lee Morgan (trumpet), Benny Golson (saxophone), Bobby Timmons (piano), Jymie Merritt (bass), and Art Blakey (drums). Information about the album, along with a list of people involved with the creation of this record, can be found at the Allmusic review of the Moanin' album.

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