Friday, January 2, 2009

Freddie Hubbard - Born To Be Blue (1981)

Third and final post dedicated to the late great Freddie Hubbard. Forget his jazz - funk extravaganzas of the 70s; this time it's as straight-ahead as can be in the mold this great 1985 performance for Blue Note records 50th anniversary below playing Herbie Hancock's Cantaloupe Island (from Herbie's Empyrean Isles of 1964, an LP Hubbard originally appeared - and excelled - in) amply demonstrates.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard - Open Sesame (1960)

This blog laments the passing away of jazz trumpet giant Freddie Hubbard. To this end, some of his most representative recorded works will be presented.

A fitful way to start would be Hubbard's first album as a leader, Open Sesame. Recorded in 1960, it is not only a very good record, it dramatizes history in the making. The trumpeter was not unknown then, but he was still in his early years; so was pianist McCoy Tyner, for whom a momentous association with John Coltrane was just around the corner. Indeed, the best-known musician at the time of this recording was bassist Sam Jones, and while he went on to bigger things with Cannonball Adderley and then Oscar Peterson, it was Hubbard and Tyner who would emerge as unambiguously major figures. That by rights should also have characterized tenorist Tina Brooks, but this superb player (his work on "But Beautiful" here is exquisite) never got the recognition he deserved, dying almost forgotten in 1974 at the age of 42. Further highlights include the leader's "Hub's Nub" and the two takes apiece of the title track and "Gypsy Blue," both excellent compositions by Brooks. Mention should also be made of drummer Clifford Jarvis, a young lion steeped in Blakey, and Rudy Van Gelder's predictably flawless engineering. The music both invigorates and enchants.

Freddie Hubbard (1938-2008)

"Freddie Hubbard's mixture of forward-looking musical ideas and old-fashioned brassiness might be called the essence of the early-sixties Blue Note sound."

--Peter Keepnews

Freddie Hubbard first played and recorded in Indianapolis with the Montgomery brothers. After moving in 1958 to New York he began a series of brief associations with established jazz musicians, including Philly Joe Jones (1958-59, 1961), Sonny Rollins (1959), Slide Hampton (1959-60), J.J. Johnson (1960), and Quincy Jones, with whom he toured Europe (1960-61). In 1961 he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, but left in 1964 to lead his own group. He also played as a sideman with Max Roach (1965-66).

From 1966 Hubbard worked principally with his own quintets and quartets, though he made a tour of the USA with Herbie Hancock's group V.S.O.P. in 1977. His most constant sideman was Kenny Barron, who played in his groups of the late 1960s (with Louis Hayes), early 1970s (with Hayes and Junior Cook), and early 1980s (with Buster Williams and Al Foster). In the mid-1980s Hubbard made a number of international tours and recorded with all-star groups, often in the company of Joe Henderson, playing a repertory of hard-bop and modal-jazz pieces. He continues to perform and record as a leader, and in 1985 made an album with Woody Shaw.

Hubbard has recorded scores of bop, modal-jazz and jazz-rock albums, both as a sideman and as a leader. In the early 1960s he also participated in such radically experimental sessionsas those for Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and John Coltrane's Ascension albums, but was subsequently criticized for his overly conventional playing. His recordings of the mid-1960s with Hancock placed him among the foremost hard-bop trumpeters, his improvisations combining imaginative melody with a glossy tone, rapid and clean technique, a brilliant high register, a subtle vibrato, and bluesy, squeezed half-valve notes.

In the early 1970s he issued several commercially successful albums with musicians who had formerly played with Miles Davis (Straight Life won a Grammy Award), but for the remainder of the decade he unsuccessfully sought widespread recognition and financial security. He tried funk, all-electronic rock, disco, and overarranged pop music, and concentrated on ostentatious virtuoso displays; his trademark, a climactic trill between nonadjacent pitches (a shake), became a cliche.

During the 1980s, however, he reverted to his former style, improvising on lyrical ballads and complex bop tunes; unfortunately the histrionic elements did not entirely disappear from his playing.

--BARRY KERNFELD, The New Grove Dictionary Of Jazz

A selected discography of Freddie Hubbard albums.

* Open Sesame, 1960, Blue Note.
* Hub Cap, 1961, Blue Note.
* Ready For Freddie, 1961, Blue Note.
* Artistry Of Freddie Hubbard, 1962, Impulse!
* Red Clay, 1970, CTI.
* Straight Life, 1970, CTI.
* Born To Be Blue, 1981, Pablo.