In his prime, from the sixties through the early nineties, critics acknowledged that he could play faster. and with more chops, than most anyone. His best playing days ended in 1992, however, when his lip became infected and never fully healed. According to a 1995 Downbeat article, because of the injury and other health problems, he was never again able to perform at those heights.
Pinnacle documents live performances from San Francisco's Keystone Korner, containing never before released versions of classics associated with the trumpeter. Supporting him is an array of sidemen, featuring pianist Billy Childs, 23, at the beginning of his stellar career and the excellent tenor saxophonist Hadley Caliman, always underappreciated up to his death in 2008. All selections are Hubbard originals except for a rich, warm version of Michel Legrand's "The Summer Knows" and a spectacular take on Coltrane's "Giant Steps."
The opener, Hubbard's 1970 hit "The Intrepid Fox," sets the hard-bop tone for the first four numbers. Bookended by drummer Sinclair Lott's highly-charged interludes, these effectively push Hubbard to top speed as he works toward the upper limits in a tour de force performance.
"One of Another Kind" stands out for its nimble trumpet-piano interaction. Intriguingly Hubbard is a step ahead here, with Childs, slightly behind. Also notable is Caliman's Coltrane- influenced solo. A welcome change in tempo comes with "The Summer Knows," as Hubbard's ripe-toned fluegelhorn does full justice to this sunny ballad.
The peak is reached, however, with "Giant Steps," with Hubbard reaching improvisational heights in his five-minute solo. When he decides to take a break, Caliman's tenor strides forward, taking over with its muscular tone.
Thanks to the diligence of producer George Klabin in accessing archives, Pinnacle provides the chance to hear these stellar performances from the past.
The Intrepid Fox; First Light; One Of Another Kind; Happiness Is Now; The Summer Knows; Blues For Duane; Giant Steps.
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).