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Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame

Chris May By

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Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame
Blue Note's two 180gm vinyl-reissue series—Blue Note 80 and Tone Poet—continue on their enigmatic going on erratic, but mostly magnificent paths. Tone Poet is billed as the audiophile option but, on a fairly limited sampling of both series, there seems to be little, if anything at all, separating the two in audio terms. The key difference is that Tone Poet has the more luxurious, heavyweight packaging. Whatever. It is the music that counts—and 22-year old Freddie Hubbard's 1960 label debut makes a fine addition to the Blue Note 80 series.

The album is distinguished not only by Hubbard's assured presence—most notably his killer solos on three tough hard-bop originals, "Open Sesame," "Gypsy Blue" and "Hub's Nub," and another on Jimmy Van Heusen's ballad "But Beautiful"—but also by the input of the tragically shortlived tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks. Brooks had a way with ballads, but he also gave the lie to the Quincy Jones-coined maxim "junkie tempo," for Brooks was totally on top of his horn at all speeds. On the upbeat "Open Sesame" and "Gypsy Blue," both of which he wrote, he combines passion with surgical precision, complementing lightning-speed runs with R&B-derived vocalisations, smears and low-end honks.

Hubbard's exuberant style and rounded tone are both already in place on Open Sesame. In many ways he was in the 1960s the heir to Clifford Brown. His solo on "But Beautiful" resonates with Brown's historic reading of Hoagy Carmichael's "Stardust" on Clifford Brown With Strings (EmArcy, 1955). McCoy Tyner, who joined John Coltrane's quartet later in the year, is barely needed as an accompanist, such is the drive of the two horn players, but he adds a couple of tasty solos. Relative veteran Sam Jones is rock solid on bass. Clifford Jarvis on drums is competent but unremarkable. Art Blakey or Philly Joe Jones would likely have taken the session the extra mile.

Less than a week after Open Sesame was recorded, Hubbard and Brooks reconvened at Rudy Van Gelder's Englewood studio to record Brooks' Blue Note debut, True Blue (an earlier session for the label was, for reasons unknown, not released until 1980, when Blue Note Japan put it out as Minor Move). Again, the choice of drummer, this time Art Taylor, leaves something to be desired, but again also, True Blue endures as a hard-bop landmark.

Incidentally, this edition of Open Sesame does not render the 2004 Van Gelder-remastered CD redundant. The RVG edition includes another fifteen minutes of magic in alternate takes of the title track and "Gypsy Blue," both with blinding solos from Hubbard and Brooks.

Track Listing

Open Sesame; But Beautiful; Gypsy Blue; All Or Nothing At All; One Mint Julep; Hub's Nub.

Personnel

Freddie Hubbard: trumpet; Tina Brooks: saxophone, tenor; McCoy Tyner: piano; Sam Jones: bass, acoustic; Clifford Jarvis: drums.

Album information

Title: Open Sesame | Year Released: 2019 | Record Label: Blue Note Records

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