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Free For All (1964)

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Reggie Workman

Free for All is a high point in drummer Art Blakey's enormous catalog. This edition of the Jazz Messengers had been together since 1961 with a lineup that would be hard to beat: Freddie Hubbard on trumpet (his last session with the Messengers), Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone,Cedar Walton on piano, and Reggie Workman on bass. Shorter's title track is one of the finest moments in the Jazz Messengers' history. In the eight minutes of "Free for All," an emotional apex is reached that skirts the edge of free bop without losing Blakey's rhythmic glue. Another Shorter composition, "Hammer Head," is a mid-tempo soul-blues groove, with ShorterHubbard, and Fuller taking exceptional solos while Blakey keeps the mid-tempo vigorously swinging. Hubbard's "The Core," dedicated to the Congress of Racial Equality, comes close to capturing the heat of the title cut, as it contains similar fiery interplay. The session's closer, Clare Fischer's "Pensativa" (brought to the Messengers songbook by Hubbard), would remain a favorite with Blakey for years. A passionate Jazz Messengers workout that proves essential.