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Freddie Hubbard: Pinnacle

C. Michael Bailey By

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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 a man at work, crafting and plying his trade.

With the rich loam of jazz experience, past and present, it has been easy to overlook Hubbard. Sure he is acknowledged as a member of the upper echelon of trumpeters, but there he seems to stay, beyond discussion while Miles Davis continues to make good copy. Maybe "overlook" is not the right word. Maybe "neglect" is better, or, better yet "taken-for-granted."

It seems too easy to forget that Hubbard played on a host of the most important jazz recordings of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. The firebrand trumpeter was on hand for composer/saxophonist Oliver Nelson's Blues And The Abstract Truth (Impulse!, 1961), multi-reedist Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch (Blue Note, 1964), composer/pianist Herbie Hancock's Maiden Voyage (Blue Note, 1965), composer/saxophonist Wayne Shorter's Speak No Evil (Blue Note, 1965). Hubbard also appeared on what are considered the masterpieces of the free jazz movement, alto saxophonist Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (Atlantic, 1961) and saxophonist John Coltrane's Ascension (Impulse!, 1965). These are all conspicuous recordings.

Hubbard's own output is equally impressive. His Blue Note recordings of the 1950s and 1960s were well received and characterized by his keen hard bop cum post bop sensibility. His greatest contribution to jazz as a leader might be Red Clay (CTI, 1970) or Straight Life (CTI, 1971). They are both studies in the trajectory established by Miles Davis with his second great quintet. Where Davis moved on to fusion, Hubbard continued to refine post bop with his patently hard bop- informed approach, steeped in the blues but as immediate as the notes shooting from his bell. Hubbard's inclusion in the famous V.S.O.P quintet, with the members of Davis' second quintet, was a natural evolution.

Pinnacle captures Hubbard live in San Francisco on two occasions in 1981. These songs are in a sense period pieces. Hubbard opens with "The Intrepid Fox" from Red Clay. It is played both loose and intense, Hubbard's machine gun solo searing the air, revealing no technical losses in the ten years since its composition. Keybordist Billy Childs's Fender Rhodes on "First Light" really places the performances time-wise, being both funky and slick. Sharing Hubbard's vision for hard bop-post bop, Childs proves a essential element to these performances.

Hubbard's treatment of the theme from the film Summer of '42 (Warner Brothers, 1971), "The Summer Knows" is lyrical and sturdy, Hubbard's playing both tender and assertive at the same time. Of great interest is the trumpeter's cover of Coltrane's "Giant Steps." Hubbard is fully in command of the harmonically demanding material, turning the piece into a raging juggernaut closing the disc. This is exciting jazz captured at an otherwise ill-defined time in the music's history. Hubbard proves he never takes his eye off the ball.

Track Listing: The Intrepid Fox; First Light; One Of Another Kind; Happiness Is Now; The Summer Knows; Blues For Duane; Giant Steps.

Personnel: Freddie Hubbard: trumpet, flugelhorn; Billy Childs: piano, Rhodes; Larry Klein: bass; Phil Ranelin: trombone (1-4, 6, 7); Hadley Caliman: tenor saxophone (3, 6, 7); David Schnitter: tenor saxophone (1, 2, 4); Eddie Marshall: drums (3, 5-7); Sinclair Lott: drums (1, 2, 4).

Title: Pinnacle | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Resonance Records


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