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 he passed. His first album since 2001, it surrounds him with a formidable ensemble that offers enthusiastic support to the jazz icon. Nowhere in the playing, however, does this sound like a requiem for a man who has reached the end of life's winding road. All seven selections are Hubbard compositions, six of which appeared on albums from the leader's past, getting fresh new arrangements from members of the octet. The only new tune is the title track.
While he certainly doesn't possess the fiery, octave-defying magic heard on early Blue Note dates, Hubbard still blows with the same passion and inspiration that cemented his reputation all those years ago. His solos usually last for little more than a few choruses, but this album is a true collaboration among a large gathering of talented musicians; Hubbard simply serves as the centerpiece or jumping-off point from which the rest of the players take flight. The rhythm section features one of the city's top bass men in Dwayne Burno, as well as pianist Xavier Davis and drummer EJ Strickland. These guys shine on the closing, Latin-influenced "Gibraltar." They're joined by an impressive horn lineup, notably tenor saxophonist Craig Handy, who also does a fine job on flute during the Hubbard classic, "Up Jumped Spring."
This final taste of Hubbard's genius reveals a man who refused to give in to whatever physical limitations he may have been forced to endure, responding with nothing but perseverance for the sake of artistry. Freddie Hubbard will be missed, but his monumental musical legacy will live on forever.
Lifelight; Up Jumped Spring; Theme For Kareem; On the Real Side; Take It To the Ozone; Skydive; Gibraltar.
David Weiss: trumpet; Myron Walden: alto sax; Jimmy Greene: tenor and soprano sax; Steve Davis: trombone; Norbert Stachel: baritone sax and flute; Xavier Davis: piano; Dwayne Burno: bass; E.J. Strickland: drums: Craig Handy: tenor sax, flute; Russell Malone: guitar.
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