Starting with the self-titled track, “The Witch Doctor” focuses on The Jazz Messengers more than any sense of Blakey with Lee Morgan on the trumpet and flugelhorn. Wayne Shorter covers the tenor saxophone and Bobby Timmons on keys while Jymie Merritt handles the bass and immediately gets to work with a snapping thump on the strings. “The Witch Doctor” is a smooth appetizer into the wastes that gives Timmons some breathing room under the scorching spotlight.
Frankly beautiful and nearly a hustler’s theme from the mere introduction, the ripples on the bass cover to be The Jazz Messengers’ pivot piece where the other instrumentalists can collide and coexist.
When Blakey on percussion actually comes to terms with a piece of the shine is on “Afrique” where his swing rhythms bounce off the cymbals and create waves of monsoon levels to wash over the listener. Never touching the freeform side of jazz, Blakey & The Jazz Messengers are a dream to follow that has moments of being uncaged, but never tilters too far into the sharp learning curve that many jazz instrumentalist groups have.
They are inviting but precise enough to be a perfectionist’s favorite moments. Almost unforgiving however is their work of “A Little Busy” that has these snaps on the snare that are tight-knit bounces where the horns can suddenly burst with splashes of color and abrasive grasps of attention. Blakey & The Jazz Messengers makes quick work of conquering the soundscape where nothing seems to fully be unreachable. The Witch Doctor even at times begins to feel less infused with voodoo and more infused with the elixir of life.
Etching with “Lost And Found,” The Witch Doctor becomes a hanging pendulum that sways back and forth between being the care-free illustration of jazz and the serious stone-faced con artist that slicks their hair and walks with a bounce. In any right, Blakey & The Jazz Messengers together seem to strike gold time and time again and The Witch Doctor is no different.
With seven tracks over 40 total minutes, The Witch Doctor is a potent brew able to rival some of the most intricate levels of jazz performance. Pieces twist and turn to fit a mold that no doubt, allows Blakey & The Jazz Messengers to thrive among kings of the sonic waves.