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Free for All
LP (12" album, 33 rpm)
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Free For All (Rudy Van Gelder Edition)
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Audio CD, Original recording remastered, August 10, 2004
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Free for All is a 1964 jazz album by Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers released on Blue Note. Now, celebrating its 50th anniversary, the album will be newly-remastered for vinyl as part of the overall Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyl reissue campaign. It is the first of many to come. Blakey, the Jazz Messenger's leader and drummer, recorded Free for All with Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, recent Grammyr-winner Wayne Shorter on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano and Reggie Workman on bass. Free for All features "Free For All" and "Hammer Head" both by Wayne Shorter as well as "The Core" by Freddie Hubbard and "Pensativa" by Clare Fischer. This new reissue was mastered by Alan Yoshida at Dunning-Kruger in Los Angeles as part of an overall Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyl reissue campaign spearheaded by current Blue Note Records President, Don Was. - Remastered and reissued as part of the Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyl reissue campaign - Vinyl initiative spearheaded by current Blue Note Records President, Don Was, to include 100 essential Blue Note albums - Includes special Blue Note 75 vinyl sleeve that features album cover art for 75 Blue Note titles - First run of vinyl to include Blue Note 75th logo on back of package - Key to the Blue Note 75th anniversary vinyl reissue campaign is to creation of high quality audio at an affordable price - All year long Blue Note will celebrate their iconic artists and the history of the label with various events, digital initiatives, vinyl campaigns and more
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It's rare that expert musicians truly test their own boundaries on record. Generally, jazz tends to make difficult music sound easy; not so here. Midway through the marathon opening chart, these cats are exhausted, but they fight past the sore chops, laying down breathless licks; just listen to Fuller's hoarse, frantic trombone solo. This is a band at the height of their powers, chasing new heights of expression in familiar old scales with steadfast determination. The slower tempo on closing ballad "Pensativa" feels hard-won, a comedown of sorts as Blakey finally allows his bandmates to catch their breath. Truly a singular session.
Each track swings and swings hard. However, there is a quality to the last track - "Pensativa" - that touches my soul in some ineffable way. One unique aspect of this album for me personally is although I am a drummer I don't care much for Blakey's style of drumming. Not that Blakey isn't one of the greats because he is, but I am more drawn to the likes of Ed Thigpen, Connie Kay, Frankie Dunlop and similar drummers. However, there is something about Blakey's explosive drumming on this album that does appeal to me. I cannot put my finger on it, but he manages to inspire me with his playing here.
With Wayne Shorter on tenor and Freddie Hubbard on trumpet I am naturally drawn to the album. This is not my absolute favorite Jazz Messenger line-up, but it does rank up there. The other members comprising this particular 'edition' had been together for nearly three years, which may account for the energy leaping out from the album. For the record the other members on the recording are Cedar Walton on piano, Reggie Workman on bass, Chris Fuller on trombone and, of course, Art Blakey on drums.
For a studio album this captures a rare energy (and synergy) for any ensemble (not just the Jazz Messengers), and is one of the hardest swinging albums any edition of the Messengers cut - in or out of the studio.