Freddie Hubbard Complete Blue Note Studio Sessions
Freddie Hubbard – The Complete Freddie Hubbard Blue Note & Impulse 60’s Studio Sessions – Mosaic Records #MD7-274 – 7 CD – ****1/2
There has always been an active, yet friendly, debate among jazz trumpet fans regarding their favorite hard bop trumpeter from the “golden age” of this jazz genre (mid 1950s to late 1960s). This period (my all time favorite- truth in advertising) was dominated by Blue Note Records with a strong assist from Prestige, and its subsidiaries. Rudy Van Gelder engineered the lion share of recording sessions for the two labels, and they comprise the holy grail for collectors.
The debate regarding jazz trumpeters of this brief (yet consequential) era centered around Lee Morgan, Donald Byrd, Booker Little, and Freddie Hubbard. Booker Little sadly passed away in 1961 at just 23 years old. Lee Morgan’s flame blew strongly till 1972, when his common-law wife shot him over a domestic dispute. Donald Byrd ventured into soul jazz and later teaching.
There is a strong case for elevating Freddie Hubbard to the upper echelon due to his ability to conquer whatever was thrown his way from straight ahead hard bop sessions (both as a leader, and as trumpeter for one of the iconic periods of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers) to embracing more “open” settings with Eric Dolphy. Before recording for Blue Note, in his early 20s, Freddie came up with icons John Coltrane, and Sonny Rollins. He also was featured with trombonist Slide Hampton, and bassist, Paul Chambers.
But it is his five year tenure with Blue Note Records for which Hubbard is most well known and revered. That’s why it is a major event that Mosaic Records is releasing his eight Blue Note releases from 1960-1965 in their latest box set from this elite boutique label. To sweeten the pot, Mosaic is including Freddie’s two releases from the Impulse label ( The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard and The Body and Soul.) To say that this box set is a dream purchase for hard bop fans is a major understatement. For those who already have some of these albums, the improved sound, courtesy of remastering engineer, Malcolm Addey, using the original analog masters; as well as the archival quality photos in the 20 page album sized booklet, and the liner notes from jazz historian, Bob Blumenthal, make the purchase of this set an easy decision.
Freddie was in prime form in his mid 20s, on these ten albums. Full of vim and vinegar, Hubbard is a trumpet monster, blowing fire in rapid run choruses. His solos are inventive, melodic, and a force to be reckoned with. Much of the material is Hubbard originals, and fall into the hard bop groove, driven by gospel and blues roots, for which hard bop is so famous.
Freddie is backed by the cream of the crop sidemen, most who went on to long careers as leaders, who are easily recognizable. Many were nearly as young as their leader. Let’s name a few:
- Pianists include McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Tommy Flanagan, Herbie Hancock, Ronnie Mathews, and Harold Mabern.
- Saxophonists are a dream crew of Hank Mobley, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter, John Gilmore, James Spaulding, Joe Henderson, and the underrated, Tina Brooks. Even Eric Dolphy makes a guest appearance.
- Trombonists include his Jazz Messengers partner, Curtis Fuller, as well as Julian Priester, and Melba Liston.
- Bassists are Sam Jones, Paul Chambers, Art Davis, Reggie Workman, Larry Ridley, and Bob Cranshaw.
- Who can compare to these drummers who appear with Freddie throughout these sessions: Elvin Jones, Pete LaRoca, Philly Joe Jones, Joe Chambers, Clifford Jarvis, and Louis Hayes.
Now you can see why the 1960s is often called the Golden Age of Jazz.
From his first Blue Note issue, Open Sesame (1960) through Blue Spirits (1965), there is an embarrassment of riches throughout the seven CDs in this set. Each album contains a treasure chest of hard bop bliss.
Just to sample what a listener finds here…
- There is a Horace Silver influence on Open Sesame, highlighted by the title track, as well as the contributions from the soulful saxophonist, Tina Brooks, on “Gypsy Blue,” and Freddie’s ballad, “But Beautiful.”
- Goin’ Up finds Freddie with future stars Hank Mobley and McCoy Tyner. Mobley contributes the hip “Peck a Sec,” (Mobley has the coolest titles..), and Freddie wrote the spirited “Blues for Brenda,” in honor of his wife.
- Hubbard’s third release for Blue Note, Hub Cap, has the young trumpeter bringing a more complete package with writing and arranging. Standouts include “Cry Me Not,” which shows another side of Freddie, as not just a fire cracker, as well as another tribute, this time for his niece, “Luana.”
- Ready for Freddie has Hubbard moving (like so many of his contemporaries at the time) in the direction of channeling John Coltrane. Having John’s sidemen, McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Art Davis along, aids the transition. Kiane Zawadi’s euphonium helps greatly expand the sound stage. Wayne Shorter brings his “Marie Antoinette,” while Freddie shows his “warm” side on “Weaver of Dreams.”
Freddie began recording for other labels beginning with his Impulse release, The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard. His composition, “Bob’s Place,” has bassist Art Davis featured on both arco and plucked bass, backing some burning trumpet choruses. “Happy Times” is more easy going, while the standard, “Summertime” gives each sidemen extended solo time in a winning version of this classic. “The Seventh Day” with a flamenco rhythm, lets the edgy saxophonist, John Gilmore take his sax in a keening direction.
In the midst of a strong tenure with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Freddie recorded Hub-Tones. James Spaulding replaces John Gilmore as the edgy force saxophonist here. James is on flute on Freddie’s tribute to Booker Little (“Lament for Booker”) a moving tribute to the trumpeter, who died so young.
Spaulding gets his own honor on Freddie’s “For Pee’s Sake.”
Here to Stay was recorded at the end of 1962. a very busy year for Mr. Hubbard. This album has standards, Hubbard originals, and two tracks written by fellow trumpeter, Cal Massey. Hubbard mixes time signatures on “Nostrand and Fulton.” This album also has the first known recording for Freddie of the classic tune, “Body and Soul.” Here he goes from warm lyrical to adding more heat later in the tune.
One of Freddie Hubbard’s most ambitious works was The Body and the Soul, done for Impulse. It features full orchestra with strings, a big band session, and a smaller septet. With primarily standards, Hubbard could display his trumpet range. Wayne Shorter did the arranging, and Impulse footed the bill for the entire package.
Ellington standards, “Chocolate Shake” and “I Got It Bad (And That Ain’t Good”) as well as the standard “Skylark” make up the orchestral version, while the big band (including Eric Dolphy) take on “Aries,” “Carnival,” and “Thermo.” Finally the septet, with Dolphy again, does three numbers, with “Body and Soul” returning.
Breaking Point ventures out into more “free” territory with the return of a quintet session, this time with James Spaulding on alto sax and flute. The one mainstream number is “D Minor Mint” done in 4/4 time. Drummer Joe Chamber’s “Mirrors” shows again the warm, lyrical side of Hubbard.
These 1960s sessions close with Blue Spirits, a return to a multi session release, with different groupings ranging from a sextet to an octet, recorded over three dates. It’s a full mixture of horns, including euphonium again. Conga drummer, Big Black, is featured on two tracks, with “Soul Surge” being especially soulful. The title track shows Freddie’s power on full display.
Freddie Hubbard went on to a very illustrious career for another two plus decades with recordings on both Atlantic Records and CTI. However, he will be most remembered for his younger years with Blue Note Records, when he helped to set the standard for hard bop trumpet prowess. It is on full display on this masterful seven CD box set. It will only be pressed for 5000 copies. Do not hesitate to pick up your copy ASAP from the Mosaic Records website.
Open Sesame (1960)
Goin’ Up (1960)
Hub Cap (1961)
Ready for Freddie (1961)
The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard (1962)
Here to Stay (1962)
The Body and Soul (1963)
Breaking Point (1964)
Blue Spirits (1965-66)
More information available through Mosaic Records: