By Francis Lo Kee
Freddie Hubbard has led a productive and interesting recording career that has gone through various phases, showing up on revolutionary records of the '60s (with Ornette, Dolphy and Coltrane) and some of the best hard bop, "keeper-of-the-flame sessions, too (as a member of Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers).
Ready for Freddie (1961) was made while Hubbard was working with Blakey and his playing here is on fire. "Birdlike (a blues in F, later renamed "Byrdlike ) and "Crisis are two of his best known compositions and justifiably so; tuneful, unique and concise, they provide vehicles for great solos by Hubbard, Wayne Shorter and McCoy Tyner while Elvin Jones and Art Davis drive these tunes with energy and creativity.
Hubbard had decided to leave Blakey's band to strike out on his own by the time he recorded Breaking Point (1964), an amazing recording (save one "filler composition). You can hear the trumpeter coming to grips with the diverse aesthetics surrounding him. The title track is an interesting and unique composition played with incredible skill and drama. It's like a meeting between the avant-garde and calypso. Free jazzers take note how accurately these ensemble lines are played. Almost as if part of a suite, "Breaking Point flows into "Far Away , which features the great flute work of James Spaulding.
Night of the Cookers (1965) is a live two CD set containing four tunes with a classic live musician/audience vibe. "Jodo is knock-down, dragout, high-voltage hard bop at its best. Pete La Roca's drum solo is amazing - the kind of thing that would be edited out of a studio date and one of the reasons it's great that these tracks have been re-issued.
Blue Spirits (1965-66) takes Hubbard back into the studio. From listening to its first tracks we might think it's a pull-back from the modernism of Breaking Point and the abandon of Night of the Cookers, however it is the tracks originally not issued which are the strongest. Powerful solo statements are given by Joe Henderson and Harold Mabern and by the time you get to "Jodo (the first bonus track) the creative voltage level goes up 200%. Hubbard, Spaulding and Henderson turn in burning solos while the rhythm section of Tyner, LaRoca and bassist Bob Cranshaw cook. "The Melting Pot and "True Colors feature Herbie Hancock, Henderson, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones, with Hancock playing harpsichord (mis-labeled celeste) on the latter!
Hubbard has admittedly made some poor commercial choices but he has also made incredibly avant-garde records and exemplary hard bop. These four CD re-issues present some top-notch music of Hubbard (and colleagues) in his prime.
Tracks and Personnel
Ready for Freddie
1 Arietus; 2 Weaver of Dreams; 3 Marie Antoinette; 4 Birdlike; 5 Crisis; 6 Arietus (alternate take); 7 Marie Antoinette (alternate take)
Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; Bernard Mckinney, Euphonium; Wayne Shorter, Tenor Sax; Mccoy Tyner, Piano; Art Davis, Bass; Elvin Jones, Drums
1 Breaking Point; 2 Far Away; 3 Blue Frenzy; 4 D Minor Mint; 5 Mirrors; 6 * Blue Frenzy (45 take); 7 * Mirrors (45 take)
Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; James Spaulding, Alto Sax, Flute; Ronnie Mathews, Piano; Eddie Khan, Bass; Joe Chambers, Drums
Night of the Cookers
Disc1: 1 Pensativa; 2 Walkin'
Disc 2: 1 Jodo; 2 Breaking Point
Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, Trumpets; James Spaudling, Alto Sax, Flute; Harold Mabern, Piano; Larry Ridley, Bass; Pete La Roca, Drums; Big Black, Congas
1 Soul Surge; 2 * Blue Spirits; 3 * Outer Forces; 4 Cunga Black; 5 * Jodo; 6 ** The Melting Pot; 7 ** True Colors
Freddie Hubbard, Trumpet; James Spaulding, Alto Sax, Flute; Joe Henderson, Tenor Sax; Kiane Zawadi, Euphonium; Harold Mabern, Piano; Larry Ridley, Bass; Clifford Jarvis, Drums; Big Black, Congas; Hank Mobley, Tenor Sax; Mccoy Tyner, Piano; Bob Cranshaw, Bass; Pete La Roca, Drums; Hosea Taylor, Bassoon; Herbie Hancock, Piano, Celeste; Reggie Workman, Bass; Elvin Jones, Drums