Art Blakey

Soul Finger

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Soul Finger, released on Limelight in 1965, marks Lee Morgan's and Freddie Hubbard's final studio appearances as members of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Morgan had been an on-again-off-again member since the 1950s, but his tenure with Blakey through the early 1960s remained fairly constant. The set also includes a young John Hicks on piano, bassist Victor Sproles, and veteran saxophonist Lucky Thompson. While this set may lack the sheer high-energy crackle of some of the Jazz Messengers Blue Note dates, there is quite a bit to enjoy here. The title track kicks the joint off in bluesy style with the three-horn front line in a slightly dissonant intro before moving in a fingerpopping groover with some killer wood by Sproles used as fills between lines. The spunky Latin groove of "Buh's Bossa" offers Blakey's consummate chops accenting the knotty, sometimes snaky melody line with some excellent comp work by Hicks. Thompson's underrated soprano work makes a beautiful appearance on "Spot Session," a sultry little groover. The real highlight of the set is "Freedom Monday," that offers taut hard bop lyric lines, extended harmonies in the front line -- especially between Hubbard and Morgan -- and a smoking Afro-Cuban rhythmic line highlighted by Blakey and Hicks. The program here showcases the sounds of a band in transition to be sure, but also the sound of a group with nothing to lose; in other words, plenty of chances get taken that might not otherwise fly. This date is well worth seeking out for fans of Blakey's long running, ever evolving unit.

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