First Flight To Tokyo: The Lost 1961 Recordings is a thrilling previously unreleased live recording of Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers captured at Hibiya Public Hall in Tokyo on January 4, 1961 during the band's first-ever tour of Japan. The Jazz Messengers were among the first modern jazz groups to tour the country, and adoring Japanese audiences were enthralled by one of the band's all-time great line-ups featuring the legendary drummer with Lee Morgan on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Bobby Timmons on piano, and Jymie Merritt on bass. The concert featured soaring performances of well-known jazz staples including Charlie Parker's "Now's The Time"," Thelonious Monk's "Round About Midnight" and Jazz Messenger hits including "Blues March", "Dat Dere"" and "Moanin'".
First Flight To Tokyo was co-produced by Zev Feldman and David Weiss. The deluxe 2-LP vinyl edition comes with an elaborate booklet featuring rare photos by Japanese photographers Shunji Okura and Hozumi Nakadaira; a historical essay by acclaimed jazz critic Bob Blumenthal; plus new interviews with Wayne Shorter in conversation with Blue Note president Don Was, celebrated saxophonist Lou Donaldson, Japanese jazz star Sadao Watanabe, renowned Japanese music critic Reiko Yukawa, Blakey's son Takashi Blakey, and a trio of drum greats: Louis Hayes, Billy Hart, and Cindy Blackman Santana.
Audio was newly transferred from the original 1/4" tape reels, and the vinyl edition was mastered by Bernie Grundman and pressed on 180g vinyl at RTI.