As was customary with Blue Note releases during the 1950s and '60s, the names of the musicians performing on Hub Cap are listed on the album’s front cover. The name of Freddie Hubbard, the leader, isnot surprisinglymost prominent. However, the factor that elevates Hub Cap a notch above similarly styled LPs released at the time is the fifth name listed under Hubbard’s: drummer “Philly” Joe Jones.
Within a minute of the opening title song, Jones has made his presence known. After an eight-bar introduction, his drumming remains attentive during the tune’s stop-and-go theme. His handling of the three four-bar scored sections during Hubbard’s first solo chorus is virtuostic. Elsewhere on Hub Cap, Jones’s magnificent versatility comes through over and over again: the cymbal crashes on Randy Weston’s ballad “Cry Me Not” add considerable drama; his high-hat work during the opening moments of “Luana” and the shuffle beat on “Osie Mae” establish irresistible toe-tapping grooves; and his pulsating rhythms on “Plexus” push Hubbard to great heights during his memorable two-chorus improvisation.
1961's Hub Cap was the third album Hubbard recorded for Blue Note Records and was the first to feature predominantly original compositions. Of Hubbard’s four songs, “Luana” is especially well thought-out, fashioned with an extended introduction and a fetching melody. Hubbard’s playing on Hub Cap is on par with his other work during the early-'60s: the ideas rapidly ooze out of his horn one after another, his tone remains bright and brassy, and he demonstrates a flair for the dramatic possibilities of the trumpet. Joining Hubbard on the front line are trombonist Julian Priester and tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, who play fine enough, but they are overshadowed by the trumpeter. For example, compare Hubbard’s fiery statement on “Plexus” with Priester and Heath’s solos, where both make use of a repeating motif that prohibits them from really taking flight. Cedar Walton occupies the piano chair and makes his biggest impression with his first-ever recorded tune, “Plexus.”
As part of the Rudy Van Gelder Edition series, this reissue of Hub Cap features sterling sound through an impressive remastering job by the legendary engineer himself. The music truly comes alive, making the listener feel that he or she is in Van Gelder’s Englewood Cliffs studio witnessing first-hand the drum wizardry of “Philly” Joe Jones and the precocious talent of Freddie Hubbard on a spring day in 1961.