Art Blakey (1919-1990) was an American jazz drummer, composer, and bandleader. He is best known as the founder and leader of The Jazz Messengers. Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Blakey began his musical journey as a pianist but switched to drums after being ordered to do so at gunpoint by a nightclub owner. He learned from legendary drummer Chick Webb and later formed his own band, backing pianist Mary Lou Williams. Blakey played with notable musicians such as Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie before organizing the Seventeen Messengers and recording with the octet called the Jazz Messengers.
In 1948, Blakey visited Africa where he discovered polyrhythmic drumming and embraced Islam, taking on the name Abdullah Ibn Buhaina. Throughout the 1950s, he performed with renowned artists like Miles Davis, Clifford Brown, and Horace Silver. His collaboration with Silver led to the formation of The Jazz Messengers. This group became a platform for young talent under Blakey's leadership until his passing.
Recognized as a major figure in modern jazz, Art Blakey made significant contributions to the genre both as a musician and mentor over three decades. His impact on drums and his ability to nurture emerging talent cannot be overstated.