Five "Blue Note" Stars!! Donald Byrd and an all star cast really fire off a great recording of classic jazz, funk, and adventurous music. Billy Higgins, Butch Warren and the superlative Herbie Hancock are a great rhythm section with front man Wayne Shorter adding his considerable, diverse resume to the proceedings.
The CD's title track, "Free Form", is a great vampy middle eastern-flavored track that flows from one meter to another and back throughout the recording, primarily using Billy Higgins' wonderful shifting rhythms to delineate the middle eastern part from the conventional jazz part. It's based on a tone row experiment which allows the jazzman to select his own notes for his general improvisational arc, rather than use conventional chord changes. Shorter and Byrd take to this concept very well and produce adventuous, enjoyable solos, along with Herbie Hancock's inspired solo. "Night Flower" is a drop-dead beautiful ballad with Byrd demonstrating the beauty of his tone, delayed vibrato, and musical ideas, with great support by Hancock. "Pentecostal Feelin' " is the almost obligatory gospel/funk groove song that populated many Blue Note albums, in the tradition of Silver's "Jody Grind" and Morgan's "Sidewinder" and all parties produce nice, forceful and funky solos. "French Spice" is a jazz ballet piece with drama and sizzle based on declaratory statements coming from the head, the arrangement, and the solos: one of my favorites from this LP that got into my head (along with "Nai, Nai" and "Free Form") and have stayed there for decades. "Three Wishes" is a very nice addition to the original lineup of tunes.
The 'Piece D'Resistance' for me is "Nai, Nai" with all participants producing their best solos of the date. In partricular, Donald Byrd gets off a great multi-noted solo with flurries to amp up the intensity. Shorter produces a beauty of a solo of 'relaxed intensity' as he states his case for solo honors. Note the entry of Shorter and Hancock into each solo following Byrd: very well thought out and executed hand-offs from soloist to soloist. All in all, a really wonderful recording from end to end that will produce great emotions and stoke memories far into the future. Five "Classic Blue Note" stars!
(NOTE: As I've mentioned before, you can't go wrong with a Blue Note Records set from the 1960's, especially because of Alfred Lion, Rudy Van Gelder, and a stable of some of the best jazz musicians around during that period. Multiple takes of each song were legendary and that's what is responsible for the greatness of the Blue Note products that finally made the final cut on each album from the 1960s. Remember Miles Davis' accidentally-recorded concerned question following a take of "One for Daddy'O" from the recording "Something Else": "Is that what you wanted, Alfred?". Indeed! Donald Byrd was on the "A" list in those days and this is one of his best recordings from that period.)