Art Blakey (d, chant), Donald Byrd (tpt), Ray Bryant (p), Wendell Marshall (b), Art Taylor (d), Philly Joe Jones (d, chant), Victor Gonzales (bo), Julio Martinez (cng, treelog), Sabu Martinez (bo, cng, chant), Chonguito Vincente (cng), Ray Barretto (cng), Fred Pagani, Jr. (tim) Andy Delannoy (marac, cencerro), Austin Cromer (chant), Hal Rasheed (chant)
Cover photo: Francis Wolff
Design: Reid Miles
Liner notes: Joe Goldberg
Recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at The Manhattan Towers Hotel Ballroom, November 9, 1958
Originally released June 1959
Date first heard: January 24-25, 2021 (Apple Music)
Ten percussionists. Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, and Art Taylor. Tunes without heads. LOUD. Art must have been beyond happy to have this project green-lighted by Alfred and Frank. A drum- and percussion-centric record of Afro-Cuban grooves was certainly not what Blue Note was known for. Make no mistake, these are not jazz records.
One of the most amazing things about these two titles (both from the same session) is Van Gelder’s recording of the many kinds of drums, usually playing simultaneously. No one seems to be crowded out. The congas, bongos, and trap kits are all clear and right there. On a session like this, so many things could have gone wrong, so the clarity cannot be taken for granted.
Tito Puente. ¡Cubanismo! Benny Moré. I’ve been a fan of Afro-Cuban music for as long as I can remember. That swirling, floating, poly-rhythmic feel where the “1” is not obvious. There’s nothing like it in music. Although the music on these releases is not quite like the artists I mentioned, the comparison will give you an idea about its influences. In addition to percussionists, those artists all feature(d) orchestras with the kinds of musicians you’d see in a jazz big band. But save for trumpet, piano, and bass, Holiday for Skins is all about the drums. If that sounds appealing to you, you’ll probably enjoy these.
TL;DR: An Afro-Cuban percussion fest featuring a legendary trio of jazz drummers playing alongside congas, bongos, and timbales.
Best track: “The Feast.” This one will wake the neighbors. Great ensemble playing by the
rhythm section trumpet, piano, and bass.
The reissued digital versions of these albums combined them into a single CD and streaming title. Annoyingly, the track order was changed. As an album fundamentalist, I have to hear what was originally intended, so I had to reorder them manually.
A rare Rudy Van Gelder session from the era that was not recorded in his parent’s living room studio.