Recording date: August 21st 1961 at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs
RVG Remaster: March 9th 2004
Freddie Hubbbard (trumpet)
Bernard McKinney (euphonium)
Wayne Shorter (tenor sax)
Art Davis (bass)
Elvin Jones (drums)
Arietis, Weaver of Dreams, Marie Antoinette, Birdlike, Crisis. (Alternate takes of Arietis and Marie Antoinette included on remastered editions)
Freddie Hubbard has been a central figure in the development of much of forefront post bop jazz. Partnered with Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller, he features on seven of Art Blakey's classic early 'sixties Blue Note albums, including "Mosiac", "Buhaina's Delight", "Caravan", Ugetsu" and "Free For All". He partnered George Coleman on Herbie Hancock's seminal album "Maiden Voyage". He played on Oliver Nelson's "Blues And The Abstract Truth". He played a central role on "Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil". He is at the centre of John Coltrane's albums "Ole Coltrane", "The Africa/Brass Sessions" and "Ascension". He is a key player on Eric Dolphy's influential and radical "Out To Lunch" and appears on Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking "Free Jazz". He "replaced" Miles Davis in the revival of the second great Miles Davis quintet in 1976 that became known as V.S.O.P. and which over the next three years played a leading role worldwide in re-establishing acoustic jazz after the excesses of the fusion period. He was a headliner of the One Night With Blue Note revival show in New York City in 1985 that began to rebuild the label's future and re-establish the importance of its legacy. The list could go on.
Yet in a very real sense Freddie Hubbard's recognition has been held back rather than enhanced by all these seminal collaborations. Perhaps his cause was not helped by the success he enjoyed with CTI in the seventies with a fusion based jazz followed by a period with Columbia which strayed into outright crossover with pop. Nor has he been helped by the lip injury which since the early 'nineties just about ended his playing career before his mid 50's. And perhaps it has not helped to have been around when a true genius, Miles Davis, was continually posting breakthroughs on the very same instrument that Freddie Hubbard was playing. Nor, perhaps that Lee Morgan was tearing through the same territory. But that recognition is surely completely merited.
Freddie Hubbard was born on April 7th 1938 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He played trumpet in the John Hope Junior High School band and added French horn playing at Arsenal Tech High School. Leaving High School, he studied for a year at Jordan Conservatory of Music and took lessons with the trumpet leader of the Indianapolis Symphony (Max Woodbury). Taking Clifford Brown, Miles Davis and Kenny Dorham as his influences he formed his own band (The Contemporaries) and worked with the Montgomery brothers. Aged just 20, he moved to New York City in 1958, rooming with Eric Dolphy and working with Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Rollins and J.J. Johnson. He was offered a contract at Blue Note in 1960 which set him on his career as a leader with the label and a rapid rise to the forefront of jazz in the 'sixties.
"Ready For Freddie" is the work of a young, 24 year old trumpet player just fully grasping for the first time that moment of liberation and self determination that his contract as a leader with Blue Note has made possible. His earlier albums for the label ("Open Sesame", "Goin' Up" and "Hub Cap") had been a strong preparation. And playing on "Ole Coltrane" in May 1961 must have been inspiring. As Freddie Hubbard explained to Nat Hentoff in an interview for his liner notes to "Ready For Freddie": "So far as I can put it into words……. the way in which I'm most interested in going is Coltrane-like. I mean different ways of playing the changes so that you get a wider play of colors and of the emotions that those colors reveal."
So for "Ready For Freddie" it is no surprise that in addition to himself, three of the other musicians had been on the "Ole Coltrane" album – McCoy Tyner (piano), Elvin Jones (bass) and Art Davis (bass).
In the liner notes interview with Nat Hentoff, Freddie Hubbard explains the significance of Elvin Jones' drumming approach: " Elvin… doesn't play straight time; his sock cymbal doesn't hit on two all the time. He has such a loose feeling. His time is always flowing, and because he changes rhythms so ingeniously, over the classic meter, he keeps recharging the soloist."
He also explains his inclusion of Bernard McKinney on euphonium, an instrument best thought of as offering the control of a valved instrument like trumpet or tuba but sounding like a trombone. Nat Henthoff reports that: "(Freddie) Hubbard chose McKinney and his valved horn because he is beguilded by the sound McKinney gets from the instrument and also because the chordal requirements of the music for this date suggested the cleaner, swifter euphonium over the trombone." And while nothing more requires saying about McCoy Tyner's influence, even back in 1961 Freddie Hubbard was in no doubt about his value: "He's continually trying different ways on the changes…..and he really brings it off, getting different sounds than most others do. He does it better than anyone else I know, except maybe for Bill Evans". And of Art Davis on bass he says: "Art is terrible! He should be heard by more and more people".
Add the energy, drive and understanding between Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter and the result is a band positioned at the leading edge of post bop, talented and prepared to experiment yet wedded to a jazz and blues tradition. In other words, all the ingredients for "Ready For Freddie" to emerge as one of the greatest jazz albums of all time.
There are three Freddie Hubbard original compositions, "Arietis", "Bi(y)rdlike" and "Crisis", and an original by Wayne Shorter, "Marie Antoinette".
"B(i)yrdlike" is uptempo, blues based and a tribute to the great Donald Byrd.
"Arietis" is modal and Kind of Blue-like with its cool, quick running bass lines and clear trumpet solo lines that bring out the accomplishment in Freddie Hubbard's technique. Wayne Shorter's and McCoy Tyner's solos are suitably challenging and involving. The whole band jumps with pent up energy.
Freddie Hubbard related "Crisis" to the state of mind engendered by the perception of the growing threat of nuclear war, which came to a climax in the Cuban Missiles Crisis just over a year later (between October 14th and 28th in 1962). Then reconnaissance photographs had shown Soviet missiles en route for Cuba. Many feared that the world was on the brink of nuclear war as President Kennedy said: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union". Freddie Hubbard's musical response expresses the wish that such catastrophes can be averted; hope and reconciliation winning the day. (A slighty quicker tempo version of "Crisis" is featured on Art Blakey's "Mosiac").
"Marie Antoinette", the Wayne Shorter composition, is a fine example of the arranging talents that he was to show with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and with Miles Davis. The whole sextet is brilliantly deployed.
The single non–original track is the Young/Elliott song "Weaver Of Dreams" which Freddie Hubbard had heard sung while touring. The classical training on trumpet and French horn that he had received in Indianapolis is readily evident as he lays down the romantic melody with subtlety and panache. Here he shows great superiority to Lee Morgan's take on romantic ballad at a similar age which seems by comparison over-emoted.
Overall, "Ready For Freddie" is a very fine example of Freddie Hubbard's greatness captured just at the point of its first real emergence.
Remarkably, at age 70, Freddie Hubbard was recovering from the lip problem that has dogged his playing of and, taking up flugelhorn, was recording again with the New Jazz Composers' Octet, releasing "On The Real Side" in June 2008. However, he suffered a heart attack on 20th November and died on December 27th 2008. One of the greatest jazz musicians of the modern age was gone.
In memoriam Freddie Hubbard 1 2 3 4 5 6
Star Rating ****
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Jeff Helgesen's transcriptions of Freddie Hubbard trumpet solos
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