Freddie Hubbard's Super Blue, finally available on CD, is a minor classicoverlooked, perhaps, because it lies in the long shadow of the titan trumpeter's earlier output, or because it was recorded in the middle of a lackluster phase at Columbia.
But Blue is a late-summer sleeper. Reassembling some of the best talent from his CTI datesJoe Henderson (tenor), Hubert Laws (flute), Ron Carter (bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums) and George Benson (guitar), plus Kenny Barron (acoustic and electric keyboards), a jam-mate from Hubbard's groups of the later 1960sthe session proves that commercial accessibility can coexist with high artistic standards.
In lesser hands, much of this material would sound like smooth jazz; here the interpretations are deep and wide, rewarding repeated listenings. The rhythm section, for example: Carter's acoustic bass is propulsive without edginess, layered with subtle timbres, while DeJohnette plays with a part-swing, part-funk feel that can only be described as 'Old' Jack Swing. Barron's keyboard is fluid and flexible, his acoustic solo on "Theme for Kareem an exposé of rolling accents and morphing melody bytes; Laws is technically brilliant, executing difficult lines with unforced grace; Henderson plays with scruffy precision, weaving in and out of the changes, rounding corners, sliding without skidding out of control; Benson's cameo on "To Her Ladyship boasts a ringing bell-tone and quicksilver finesse.
Hubbard, at the helm, is flawless; a miniaturist in his attention to detail and nuance, an architect in his mastery of form (check the tuneful arc of his solo over "The Surest Things Can Change ) and a pyrotechnician of the first order; his fiery, over-the-speed-limit improvisations on "Take It to the Ozone, "Kareem (both master and alternate take) and the closing vamp of the title cut are as jaw-dropping and finger-popping as anything he's done.
Super Blue; To Her Ladyship; Take It to the Ozone; The Gospel Truth; The Surest Things Can Change; Theme for Kareem; Super Blue (alt. take); Take It to the Ozone (alt. take); Theme for Kareem (alt. take).
Freddie Hubbard: trumpet, flugelhorn; Joe Henderson: tenor saxophone; Hubert Laws: flutes; Kenny Barron: acoustic piano, keyboards; Ron Carter: bass; Jack DeJohnette: drums; George Benson: guitar; Dale Oehler: additional keyboards.