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Freddie Hubbard: Pinnacle

Dan Bilawsky By

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Pinnacle is a testament to the trumpet prowess of the one and only Freddie Hubbard, but it's also a salute to the San Francisco-based jazz club that played host to Hubbard on numerous occasions. Todd Barkan's Keystone Korner was ground zero for some of the best live jazz on the West Coast during its eleven-year lifespan, and this set of music, along with Jaki Byard's Sunshine Of My Soul: Live At The Keystone Korner (HighNote, 2007), Mary Lou Williams Live At The Keystone Korner (HighNote, 2002), and several other top-notch recordings, attest to that fact.

While Blue Note beat Resonance Records to the punch with the first major, posthumously-released set of live, never-before-heard Hubbard on Without A Song: Live In Europe 1969 (Blue Note, 2009), Pinnacle can be seen as a complementary offering, rather than a competitive recording. Both albums are likely to become essential items in Hubbard's catalog as time goes by, and the trumpeter's sound and, more importantly, style evolved in myriad ways between 1969 and 1980—the span of time between the performances on these recordings.

Pinnacle features seven songs that were cherry-picked by Barkan, trumpeter—and Hubbard's last great champion—David Weiss, and George Klabin—president of Resonance Record, and the tunes are taken from his runs at the Keystone Korner in June and October of 1980. The music, regardless of style, presents Hubbard in prime, fighting form, and his brazen blowing is nothing short of breathtaking.

The album opens with a nod to two of Hubbard's classic CTI albums—with performances of "Intrepid Fox" from Red Clay (CTI, 1970) and the title track to First Light 1971)—and his aural acrobatics take center stage on both tunes. His aggressive musical assault on "First Light," in particular, deals in all manner of sounds, from yelps, snarls and flutters, to impressive runs, and Billy Childs' Rhodes helps to set the mood. Tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman shares the spotlight with the leader on the V.S.O.P.-associated "One Of Another Kind," but "Happiness Is Now" belongs to Hubbard. Drummer Sinclair Lott and bassist Larry Klein provide some seriously funky, in-the-pocket playing, and Hubbard's soulful horn work is superb.

The lone ballad in this collection, "The Summer Knows" is delivered with plenty of rubato at first and, though the rhythm section eventually locks thing in, the piece still features no shortage of surprises. "Blues For Duane" gives trombonist Phil Ranelin an opportunity to shine, though he's stuck following Hubbard's heavyweight soloing, and the album closes with John Coltrane's "Giant Steps," a song known to give many a saxophonist a run for their money, but little-to-no problem for Hubbard, furthering the argument that the trumpeter could handle just about anything during his heyday.

While it took more than three decades for this music to make it to the marketplace, it was clearly worth the wait. Pinnacle is Freddie Hubbard at his fiery finest.

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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