Drummer Art Blakey, founder of the Jazz Messengers band and a major influence on the modern jazz movement for 35 years, died of lung cancer Tuesday. He was 71.
Blakey, born Oct. 11, 1919, in Pittsburgh, died about 2 a.m. in St. Vincent's Hospital, just blocks from his home in Greenwich Village, said hospital spokeswoman Barbara Kron. He had been ailing for several months, she said.Art D'Lugoff, owner of Manhattan's Village Gate, where Blakey appeared numerous times, said, "I'm very sorry to hear he's gone. Blakey appeared on and off here for 30 years. He was one of the great players in contemporary jazz. He always came up with fresh bands and he was very consistent. He was also a great teacher for young musicians."
In the 1940s and early 1950s, Blakey played in New York and Pennsylvania with such legends in the jazz movement as trumpeter Miles Davis and saxophonist Dexter Gordon.
In 1950 Blakey journeyed to Africa where he became influenced by African drumming and Islam, changing his name to Abdullah Ibn Buhaina, though he continued to use his birth name professionally.