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Freddie Hubbard: Fastball

Jim Santella By

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Freddie Hubbard was running at full strength when this was recorded in 1967. Label M's sixth installment of its "Live" At The Left Bank series features the trumpeter's powerful improvisation in a loose setting with complementary artists sharing the stage. Each of the five selections runs over ten minutes, allowing plenty of time for each member of the quintet to "find his muse." Bennie Maupin and Freddie Hubbard exhibit contrasting styles. The saxophonist begins his solos carefully and quietly. He builds the dynamic level gradually, never reaching full steam. Gracefully, Maupin decrescendos little by little and then turns control over to the next soloist. Hubbard, on the other hand, pushes very hard at all times. His tendency to overblow makes it difficult to capture the rich overtones on a recording. Instead, you get a lot of up-front force and very little of the desired, lingering harmonic ring.

Emotion? Yes, that's always been Hubbard's forte. He expresses at length here and never tires. Half-valve growls, flutter-tonguing, and loose finger rattles allow the leader to toss in a blues message here and there. The trumpet's volume remains high and Hubbard prefers disjoined phrases. Typically, his solos run for over five minutes. Hard bop had a new favorite son in '67. The ballad, however, suffers from all this forceful overblowing. Hubbard's "Willow Weep for Me," a ten-minute feature, sobs and cries much harder than it should. Rather than fluid, legato weeping, the trumpeter translates the piece into dry, choppy phrases. We're left with a show of strength, rather than the expected sweetness of that treasured song.

Pianist Kenny Barron is up to his usual high standards. Freddie Hubbard is too; but with a raw power, unleashed and blown out of proportion.

Track Listing: Pensativa; Echoes of Blue; Crisis; Willow Weep for Me; Bob's Place.

Personnel: Freddie Hubbard- trumpet; Bennie Maupin- tenor saxophone; Kenny Barron- piano; Herbie Lewis- bass; Freddie Waits- drums.

| Record Label: Label M | Style: Straight-ahead/Mainstream


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