Freddie Hubbard and his New Jazz Composers Octet dig into the mainstream and come up with a winner. It's a team effort. Most of the selections are arranged by trumpeter David Weiss to reflect group interaction and a robust ensemble sound. Anchored by baritone saxophone and bass, the band aims for a dramatic flair as each melody is interpreted with deliberation. Seven of the eight selections are Hubbard's originals. "Red Clay" has mellowed with age, but its new "team" sound reflects the familiar melody and draws immediate recognition. Hubbard steps forward with a brief flugelhorn solo that retains his forceful style while emphatically rounding off the edges. Throughout the program, key solos appear from flugelhorn, saxophones and piano.
"Blue Spirits" lopes in three and captures the mood. Hubbard, Craig Handy and Xavier Davis take turns in the solo spotlight, while the arrangement sparkles with its full band sound. "Blues for Miles" swings with a light New Orleans shuffle rhythm and showcases Hubbard's brightest solo of the program. He's strong and fluid for this tribute. The ensemble's swinging arrangement of Hubbard's homage to Miles Davis makes it another winner. "Dizzy's Connotations" rides a Latin wave alongside Hubbard's playful high jinks. "True Colors" finds the ensemble driving with a forceful pattern that reflects jazz's dramatic nature. For this one, trumpeter David Weiss blends his brassy timbre with the other members in a fiery display. Hubbard, 63, has opted to share his veteran experience with the younger members of his band. The team-driven result is a feather in the cap of straight-ahead jazz and a significant candidate for this year's top ten list.