Recording date: May 25th 1965
Original release date: 1979
Re-release date 20th March 2007 (Rudy Van Gelder Remaster Edition)
In a three day period 25th – 27th May in 1965 Dexter Gordon returned from "exile" in Europe to make two jazz albums with Barry Harris (piano), Bob Cranshaw (bass) and Billy Higgins (drums), the powerhouse rhythm trio behind Lee Morgan's 1963 album "The Sidewinder", who appear together with surprising infrequency considering the success of the Lee Morgan album.
On the first of those days, joined by Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, the material for "Clubhouse" was recorded. In the second two days, with Bobby Hutcherson replacing Freddie Hubbard in the same quintet, material for the album "Gettin' Around" was recorded in that same long run of sessions. "Clubhouse" remained unreleased until 1979. "Gettin' Around" was released back in 1965. On the evidence of this RVG remaster release of "Clubhouse", Blue Note released the wrong album.
The opener "Hanky Panky", a Dexter Gordon original, starts poorly with a theme of near remedial simplicity and is a reminder of Alfred Lion's insistence on an attempt at one new "Sidewinder" on just about every Blue Note album in the period. However, it rapidly becomes clear that the interplay of Dexter Gordon and Freddie Hubbard is going to be no subdued and tentative affair like "Gettin' Around". Freddie Hubbard is at a peak of his abilities and musical imagination at this time and there is a real rapport with Dexter Gordon that lifts the sax player into creative territory. (Listen to "Generation", an Original Jazz Classics from 1972, where Freddie Hubbard and Dexter Gordon play off each other to even better effect on top of Billy Higgins' ever so solid drumming to hear an even better example of the rapport between these two great jazz musicians). "Hanky Panky" develops as a genuine jazz piece as soon as Dexter Gordon's solo first breaks the ice and Freddie Hubbard's solo is clearly breaking out of the groove and determined to challenge any easy orthodoxy.
"I'm A Fool To Want You", a Sinatra ballad, conforms to the Blue Note formula of a "tender ballad to shift the mood from the bracing opener" but again goes well beyond any mere formula. Dexter Gordon is melodically inventive in a way that keeps open the thought that all along he may have been an influence on John Coltrane. Freddie Hubbard is once again superb and insightful. "Devilette" is a modal piece reminiscent of "Tanya" or "Coppin' The Haven" from Dexter Gordon's 100 Greatest Jazz album "One Flight Up". Written by Ben Tucker who sits in on bass in place of Bob Cranshaw on this track, "Devilette" explores more of the openness that is available in modal jazz.
The title track "Clubhouse", Dexter Gordon's second composition on the album, is a good vehicle for sustained blowing by sax and trumpet and provides space for a typically spiny piano solo by Barry Harris. "Lady Iris B" is a second ballad, not as convincing as "I'm A Fool To Want You" but still strong in the interplay between Dexter Gordon and Freddie Hubbard. The final track "Jodi", the third Dexter Gordon composition is a good gospel tinged blues piece with plenty of drive and emotion.
Overall one of the best recent RVG reissues.
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