4156 • Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers • The Freedom Rider • what a breath of fresh air after 4155. This album is a solo vehicle featuring Lee Morgan and Wayne Shorter in their prime, with plenty of Blakey shouting in the background to...I guess..let you know what’s on his mind. I don’t recall another Messengers record that captures more of Blakey’s yelling. It’s actually ok, and gives the recording a bit of a live feel but certainly the audio quality is still top notch. The album begins with Tell It Like It Is, a hard swinging track composed by Wayne Shorter. Lee takes the first solo followed by Shorter and each play wailing solos, before Bobby Timmons comes in and brings the volume down. The group is tight, well rehearsed and energetic, making this track a classic of the Messengers’ body of work. The title track follows which is an extended percussion solo. Perhaps on other drums only tracks I would roll my eyes and say something like how it would be better with horns. This particular composition however is explosive and a joy to listen to. It exudes turmoil, with call and response, rhythms on top of one another, abrupt stops and starts...there is conflict being expressed here and it’s hard not to get absorbed by it. You can read the liner notes for the context, but Blakey is reacting to the political environment of the time. What’s most impressive is how expressive Blakey can be with what are obvious melodic limitations. Side 2 opens with a Latin inspired track by Shorter, followed by two soul-influenced tracks written by Morgan. Both musicians really stand out on every track, with strong and well crafted solos. Blakey’s drums are recorded fairly hot, which slightly obstructs Timmons’ playing as he is certainly the more thoughtful and nuanced soloist on this record, but that’s nit picking. This record is really nonstop fire.