ART BLAKEY — Free For All (review)

ART BLAKEY — Free For All album cover Album · 1964 · Hard Bop Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
Matt
The second last Blue Note issue for "The Jazz Messengers" and perhaps the most intense album they did."Art Blakey" pounds those skins with his trademark style of driving beat with rolls and cymbals added but always keeping with the tune. Only Art had that force that he used which is perhaps why we call him the first Hard Bopper and hard was Art's style but never over the top. Art could play the lighter material when required with the beat, for example his early quartet work with "Grant Green" or the "Herbie Nichols" trio but hard was his usual approach and always he had the beat with one full sound emanating from his drum kit with great intricate playing that sounds like it is easy to do but do not be fooled because it is the exact opposite. Art Blakey is known as the frontman for "The Jazz Messengers" but originally it was the pianist "Horace Silver" but after Horace left the messengers in 1956, Art took over as leader and stayed with "The Jazz Messengers" to the end. The muscians who have passed through the band are a who's,who of Jazz but for the line up with this little jazz monster of an album we have,"Freddie Hubbard" on trumpet,"Curtis Fuller" blowing trombone, and the most important contributer to the session is "Wayne Shorter" as he wrote the first two compositions on the album and one great jazz tune was the usual result for Wayne's songwriting skills. He has written so many classics in Jazz and Fusion and the title "Free For All" is no exception."Cedar Walton" is also on piano and "Reggie Workman", bass and one great motor for the band he provides throughout the entire session.

The Wayne Shorter composiition is first "Free For All" and the name seems to fit with that being the approach with one great quick tempo Jazz number of eleven minutes being the result. It is no wonder Miles Davis wanted Wayne in his Quintet after one hears his solo which is first up. Wayne is on fire with one of his most intense solos you will hear, fast playing is an understatement and he maintains volume as only great tenor players know how. Curtis really is close with his trombone which follows but "Freddy Hubbard' is going as hard as Wayne did and with Art pounding the skins behind with a wall of drumming and with Reggie's fingers close to snapping strumming that bass as fast as he can go. Full on Jazz and what a delight to hear with Art giving a great drum solo. He sure knew how to keep them interesting and this is coming from someone who really is not into them as drum solos can often lead to yawning territory but never with "Art Blakey" whacking the kit. Another Shorter composition follows,"Hammer Head" and although not like the previous it is just as good with a shuffle that is similar to Art's famous hit "Moanin" and with a very similar return to the theme throughout with that shuffle beat behind. Wayne, Freddie once again really put one down with Freddie maybe slightly out doing Wayne here. Curtis also solos but "Cedar Walton" has a great shot on piano a'la "Bobby Timmons" and Art just keeps up his wonderful intricate drumming throughout. "Freddie Hubbard" is the composer for "The Core" and another driver of a Jazz tune and how does "Wayne Shorter" do it because he is not on fire anymore but blazing as Freddie is when he follows with his solo on trumpet and Jazz heaven is the result with even Curtis putting his best in for this one as well. Cedar also has nice crack on piano. Only four tunes on the album and we have come to the last "Pensativa" which is the standard and the most down tempo but some great stuff is done by the band and Art gets to play with some restraint and he is right on the money with his drumming. Freddie puts in a beautiful solo with this little Bossa Nova influenced number written by "Clare Fisher".

My three top "Jazz Messengers" albums on Blue Note are this one,"Night at Birdland" and "Moanin' and all are essential jazz in the Hard Bop cannon which was Art Blakeys speciality.
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