Freddie Hubbard – The Hub of Hubbard
(MPS 0211346MSW. CD Review by Peter Jones)
Another in the welcome series of remasterings from the German MPS label. Freddie Hubbard fans will be interested in the date this was recorded: January 1970 – immediately before he signed with CTI and, in what we might call his golden era, made eight classic fusion albums with them, including Red Clay, Straight Life, First Light and Sky Dive.
The album begins with a longish exploration of Without A Song played at a brisk tempo, Hubbard fencing with the young Eddie Daniels (tenor) as the rest – Louis Hayes (drums), Roland Hanna (piano) and Richard Davis (bass) drive the tune along with furious energy, Davis even getting slightly ahead of the beat in places. (Hanna, Daniels and Davis were at the time all members of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band.)
The tightness and empathy Hubbard’s touring group had achieved on the road is very evident (they cut these tracks in Villingen, southern Germany, during a break between European engagements). Yet despite the joyous sense of freedom, you might also detect a certain frustration, a suggestion that there were might be places to go other than continuing to lash away at these old standards. Just One Of Those Things is a case in point: they can hardly be bothered to play the head before launching into a suicidally fast über-bop rendition, overladen with lots of splashy cymbal from Hayes. The head out is perfunctory.
The pace relents with Hubbard’s only original composition on the album, Blues for Duane, which he plays with a Harmon mute. The final track on this short (36 minutes) collection is the ballad The Things We Did Last Summer, beginning with a dreamy little solo passage from Hanna, who later thrums the piano strings under Hubbard’s initial statement of the theme, after which Freddie solos lyrically throughout the tune.
Not only does The Hub of Hubbard feature some dazzling and varied music, it also offers a fascinating glimpse into the last moments of Freddie Hubbard’s bop period.
I have never been impressed by Freddie Hubbard's CTI fusion albums (not to my taste) and therefore cannot agree that they represent his 'golden era'. Nor do I regard his previous career as simply a 'bop period'. He was after all involved in some of the most innovative and enduring masterpieces recorded during Blue Note's peak years in the 1960s. I recently listened again to the 'Out to Lunch' and 'Dialogue' albums because of the Bobby Hutcherson connection (RIP), and was reminded of the ease with which Freddie Hubbard handled the more adventurous material.
I feel obliged to add that the late great Rudy Van Gelder felt that he had done some of his best work for the CTI label, as documented in the 'Perfect Takes' DVD for which there is a link in this piece: