Freddie Hubbard – Pinnacle, Live and Unreleased from Keystone Korner – Resonance Records HCD 2007 – 1980, 64:23 ****:
(Freddie Hubbard, trumpet & Flugelhorn; Billy Childs, piano, Fender Rhodes; Larry Klein, bass; Phil Ranelin, trombone; Hadley Caliman, tenor sax; David Schnitter, tenor sax; Eddie Marshall or Sinclair Lott, drums)
It is always a special occasion when unreleased material is found from a prime period of a musician’s life. All too often a musician continues to record when their skills have diminished and this can tarnish a reputation.
Though some may argue with conviction that Freddie Hubbard’s peak years were in the 1960s and ended in 1970s, Pinnacle shows otherwise. The live and unreleased material found on these June and October, 1980, recordings made at the intimate Keystone Korner in San Francisco show Hubbard was still a dynamo as the 1980s began. In fact, the seven selections hand picked by Keystone’s owner, Todd Barkan, and trumpeter David Weiss, who played with Freddie at the end of his career just before his death, are arguably among Hubbard’s best live material ever.
Making this release even more special is that Freddie’s band for these two recording periods was top notch for that time period, including Hadley Caliman (also recently deceased), who was in his own prime at that time, and younger players such as pianist Billy Childs, and bassist Larry Klein, who were just beginning their careers in 1980 and have gone on to future successes.
Listening to Freddie blow spurred on by an appreciative audience, as well as band members who were inspired, is revelatory. This is Hubbard in full command, still a master of the high register and capable of blowing chorus after chorus of blistering trumpet runs. Most of Pinnacle is made up of burners, with the exception of “The Summer Knows.”
“The Intrepid Fox,” from the CTI hit 1971 album Red Clay, opens the disc with Sinclair Lott’s introductory solo, followed by Billy Childs setting the theme, and then Hubbard begins to rip one hot phrase after another. At this stage in his career, Hubbard had few peers who could match him on the upper register. With machine gun intensity he ups the ante as the eight minute tune progresses. “First Light” follows and Childs is found playing the Fender Rhodes. Phil Ranelin and David Schnitter trade “out” lines with Hubbard before the bossa nova meets the blues theme, is set out by Childs. Very nice ensemble playing by the horns before Hubbard shifts the mood to double time.
“One of Another Kind” – more well known by V.S.O.P, the superstar band of the 70s where Freddie shared the stage with Hancock, Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams – is a another feature for Hubbard with a strong propulsive push by drummer Eddie Marshall, the Bay Area drummer, who was a mainstay of the Keystone Korner rhythm sections. At over twelve minutes long, Hadley Caliman has the space to be a perfect foil in intensity
for Hubbard. Hadley was another Bay Area resident, who found himself active as well in rock, Latin, and fusion settings.
“Happiness is Now” throws down the funk as Phil Ranelin and David Schnitter ably back Freddie, and bassist Larry Klein’s backbeat is mated with drummer Lott. “The Summer Knows,” from Michel Legrand’s soundtrack to Summer of ‘42, gives Hubbard a chance to show his softer, more lyrical side playing the Flugelhorn.
One of the most special tracks on Pinnacle is the closer, John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps.” This is the only known recording of the Coltrane standard ever done by Hubbard. It shows Freddie’s mastery of the trumpet as he tears through eight choruses of difficult chord changes in less than five minutes. The tempo is blistering and Freddie cuts through it like a knife through soft butter. This track belongs in any “best-of” compilation of Hubbard tracks.
Resonance Records president George Klabin should be commended for bringing this material to the public as well as providing a mini-booklet of period photos, and essays (from Larry Klein, Todd Barkan, and photographer, Kathy Sloane) on both the wonders of Mr. Hubbard, and praise for the Keystone Korner as a venue venerated by jazz musicians. Pinnacle shines the patina of Hubbard in prime time.
TrackList: The Intrepid Fox, First Light, One of Another Kind, Happiness if Now, The Summer Knows, Blues for Duane, Giant Steps
— Jeff Krow