May 24 A slight chill in the air as I enter the jazz club. It is near empty, but the bartender is ready for anything. I straighten my vintage tie and count my wedge to make sure I have the starter amount for my doorman night. With the regular bassist back on stage, the quint is into a well-oiled groove. It is impossible for them to sound better. They're playing Freddie Hubbard Little Sunflower" and the normally dour drummer is actually smiling. It's a frightening sight so I back closer to the door just in case his apparent ...read more
CTI Records reissued trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's November 1970 date, Straight Life, in 2011. As with some of the other reissues in this series (see John Kelman's in-depth discussion of some of the more important of these), its availability on compact disc has been spotty. Straight Life is a good--if not great--record, and it's good to have it back in circulation.The album is pretty simple. Two numbers--the relatively fast title track and Weldon Irvine's slower-grooving Mr. Clean"--are long modal-funk performances that provide opportunities for extended solos. A slightly incongruous flugelhorn/guitar duet on the standard Here's That Rainy Day" closes ...read more
Blistering. That is almost the only way to describe a solo by trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. Even from the beginning with his early recordings of the late 1950s, Hubbard sported a tone and attack akin to a chemical burn. He always had the classic posture of the trumpet player. Not the misanthropic one adopted by Miles Davis, bent full over, blowing toward the ground. Hubbard leaned back to an almost impossible angle, tucked in his chin and folded his elbows in close to his sides, with sweat popping out over his entire face. When Hubbard blew, you always knew he was ...read more
Trumpet great Freddie Hubbard, who died in 2008 at age 70, was at his peak in 1980 when Pinnacle was taped. He had recorded with greats, from Wes Montgomery and Art Blakey to John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, and Oscar Peterson, and led many groups of his own. In his prime, from the sixties through the early nineties, critics acknowledged that he could play faster. and with more chops, than most anyone. His best playing days ended in 1992, however, when his lip became infected and never fully healed. According to a 1995 Downbeat article, because of the ...read more
Pinnacle is a testament to the trumpet prowess of the one and only Freddie Hubbard, but it's also a salute to the San Francisco-based jazz club that played host to Hubbard on numerous occasions. Todd Barkan's Keystone Korner was ground zero for some of the best live jazz on the West Coast during its eleven-year lifespan, and this set of music, along with Jaki Byard's Sunshine Of My Soul: Live At The Keystone Korner (HighNote, 2007), Mary Lou Williams Live At The Keystone Korner (HighNote, 2002), and several other top-notch recordings, attest to that fact. While Blue ...read more
Freddie HubbardPinnacle: Live and Unreleased from Keystone KornerResonance Records2011 As album titles go, Pinnacle is closer to category than hyperbole. These seven previously unreleased tracks feature trumpeter and flugelhornist Freddie Hubbard at the apex of his abilities, recorded live at San Francisco's Keystone Korner. Some impressive West Coast talent joins the action, but Hubbard is the main attraction, and he never disappoints. The medium tempo Blues for Duane" illustrates the full range of Hubbard's technical and expressive powers. He enters softly but authoritatively, practically stepping over pianist Billy ...read more
On the surface, Freddie Hubbard's Straight Life doesn't seem like a record that should have ever found much success on the CTI label. This record lacks any grandiose arrangements or classical-jazz crossovers, two of the three tracks are far too long to garner much airplay, and those same two tracks--"Straight Life" and Mr. Clean"--are far rawer and more groove-oriented than standard CTI-issue material. That the programming is so odd--with a guitar and flugelhorn ballad following thirty minutes of soul-funk jamming--also adds to the potential for failure, but this was Freddie Hubbard in the early '70s, failure simply never entered into ...read more
It's fitting that the third wave of Sony Masterworks' CTI reissue campaign includes Freddie Hubbard's First Light, which was the third and final album in Hubbard's holy trinity on CTI. While the trumpet titan continued to record for Creed Taylor's imprint after this session, the work that followed First Light never fully measured up to his earlier successes for the label. Red Clay (CTI, 1970) was a bristling session with fulsome fusion meeting head-on with heady hard bop, and Straight Life (CTI, 1970) shifted towards a soul-meets-funk sound, with stellar results. First Light followed its predecessor down the ...read more
Do you listen to the music of great jazz artists differently once they pass away? This newly-issued live date, with bassist Ron Carter, drummer Louis Hayes and the late pianist Sir Roland Hanna, may elicit nostalgia and sadness mixed with a spirit of wonder and startled appreciation of the recently departed trumpet master Freddie Hubbard. On the title cut the quartet blazes into the 1929 melody, with Hubbard's trademark masculine sass peppering with staccato phrasing and long fluid lines in sympathetic response to Hayes' rhythmic prodding. While comping and improvising Hanna gives equal weight to his right ...read more
When Freddie Hubbard passed away in December, 2008 at 70, the jazz world lost one of the last true legends of the hard-bop movement. His prolific career spanned 50 years, most of it as a leader on historic dates for Blue Note, CTI and Columbia. He also played on classic sessions by Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey, John Coltrane, and many more. When he wasn't battling health issues, he continued to play live dates until and during the year he died. Fortunately, he blessed his fans with one more album as a leader, released shortly before ...read more
This article was originally published in May 2001.
New Colors (Hip Bop Records), new CD
I met David Weiss a couple of years ago. He's from North Texas State. He had a rehearsal band [New Jazz Composers Octet] in New York, and he had been writing out a lot of my compositions and arranging them. He said he'd like to get together and have me play some of my material with the group. At first it was only supposed to be a one-time thing, but we're going to be working together the next couple of years until I ...read more
John Coltrane Stardust (RVG Edition) Prestige-Concord 2007 Dexter Gordon Clubhouse Blue Note 2008
Freddie Hubbard is part of the most concentrated group of trumpet talents in jazz history, born on Apr. 7th, 1938, just five days after Booker Little and three months before Lee Morgan. His brassy sound, confident attack and fluid lines mark a host of the finest recordings of the '60s, including John Coltrane's Olé, Oliver Nelson's Blues and ...read more
Freddie Hubbard's Super Blue, finally available on CD, is a minor classic--overlooked, perhaps, because it lies in the long shadow of the titan trumpeter's earlier output, or because it was recorded in the middle of a lackluster phase at Columbia. But Blue is a late-summer sleeper. Reassembling some of the best talent from his CTI dates--Joe Henderson (tenor), Hubert Laws (flute), Ron Carter (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and George Benson (guitar), plus Kenny Barron (acoustic and electric keyboards), a jam-mate from Hubbard's groups of the later 1960s--the session proves that commercial accessibility can coexist with high artistic ...read more
Creed Taylor's genre-bending CTI Records held the precarious position as the dominant jazz label during the 1970s--the decade during which the music died. CTI was a contradiction in itself; it had as much to do with the promotion of straight-ahead, hard-swinging jazz as with spawning smoothed-out, easy-listening records that bordered on muzak. For every album as classy as Jim Hall's Concierto (CTI, 1975) there is a dud like Bob James's BJ4 (CTI, 1977), which comes perilously close to disco. The discontinuity can even occur on the same album; what begins as a rewarding listening experience is often suffocated by one ...read more
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