Late Spring – Leon Mitchell
This medium swinger from a little-known Philadelphia composer perfectly captures the hard-hitting groove of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. First and second parts are available.
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- Recording: Art Blakey - Hard Drive
- Recorded on: October 11, 1957
- Label: Bethlehem (BCP 6023)
- Concert Key: E-flat
- Vocal Range: , to
- Style: Swing (medium)
- Trumpet - Bill Hardman
- Tenor Sax - Johnny Griffin
- Piano - Junior Mance
- Bass - Spanky DeBrest
- Drums - Art Blakey
As with many songs Blakey recorded, there are plenty of rhythm section figures. The 2-feel in the fifth and sixth measures of the A section feature a syncopated 2-feel; the piano comps with short chords on beats 2 and 4.
There is a four-measure intro with a C pedal point, again going to F minor for a II-V in E♭. The harmonized melody over this pedal uses the whole-tone scale; this scale returns in the last measure of the bridge.
Recorded on Art Blakey's 38th birthday, "Hard Drive" was in fact the last Jazz Messengers album before the classic "Moanin'" session recorded a little over a year later. This October 11, 1957, session was an important one for more than just Leon Mitchell. It was the last time Johnny Griffin recorded with the Jazz Messengers and thus the last date Johnny shared with trumpeter Bill Hardman. It was not, however, the last time Griffin ever recorded with Blakey. By spring 1958, Johnny had joined Thelonious Monk's quintet. Blakey joined Monk (and the "Little Giant," as Johnny was called) for a session in June of 1958. On July 9, 1958, Griffin's first recording date with Monk, a live recording at the 5 Spot Club in New York, Blakey sat in for Bye-Ya and the closing theme (Epistrophy) to end the set.
Griffin and Blakey reunited for a "One Night with Blue Note" special decades later, a live session from Town Hall in NYC in 1985, alongside many other former Messengers like Curtis Fuller, Freddie Hubbard, Walter Davis, Jr., and bassist Reggie Workman. Our own Don Sickler prepared many of the arrangements and rehearsed the musicians for that event.
born on August 16, 1934
Leon Mitchell is a Philadelphia-based composer, arranger and alto saxophonist. After graduating high school, Leon studied alto saxophone under giants like Jimmy Heath and Bill Barron, but soon focused his talents on composition and arranging. In 1956, Leon had his first success when Late Spring was recorded by Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers. He also worked subcontracting arranging from Gigi Gryce. In 1959, Leon's composition To Lady (written in memory of the recently passed Billie Holiday) was recorded by Max Roach. During the early 1960s, Leon worked as an A&R Director of Blue Note records—the first person to take on the position who was not signed as an artist. Read more...