When the conversation turns to great trumpeters from the bop era onward — Diz, Brownie, Fats, Lee Morgan, Woody Shaw, Donald Byrd, Kenny Dorham, Art Farmer, Wynton Marsalis, Booker Little and so on — Freddie Hubbard’s name sometimes slips through the cracks. Too bad, as during his heyday Hubbard could match wits with any of them without embarrassment. Above and Beyond documents a live date in June 1982 at the Keystone Korner in San Francisco. Freddie was 44, had recorded his first album for Blue Note 22 years earlier, and his perception and chops remained formidable. He says this is his “best playing on record,” which may or may not be true. Hubbard is in undeniably good form, but the recording itself never rises above the ordinary, and is crippled by precarious balance and a harsh, undulating sound that is especially remorseless to Hubbard himself. The rhythm section fares somewhat better, although bassist Lewis is barely audible and pianist Childs sounds clinky (is that a word?) in the higher register. The tracks are long (Cole Porter’s “I Love You,” at 9:07, is the briefest) and everyone has ample opportunity to say what’s on his mind. Hubbard brandishes his impressive technique on “Morning Sunrise” and “Byrdlike,” spraying eighth notes with machine–gun rapidity, but in terms of inventiveness fares better on the more easygoing numbers, “I Love You” and his own composition, “Little Sunflower.” Childs, on the other hand, relishes the faster tempos and seldom runs short of salient phrases. As everyone was clearly putting forth his best effort, high marks for the playing, but much lower for sound quality, which weakens considerably an otherwise admirable session.
Track listing: Softly As in a Morning Sunrise; I Love You; Thermo; Little Sunflower; Byrdlike (68:19).
Freddie Hubbard, trumpet, flugelhorn; Billy Childs, piano; Herbie Lewis, bass; Louis Hayes, drums.
Contact: Metropolitan Records, 317 Madison Avenue, Suite 2310, New York, NY 10017.