Freddie Hubbard MMTC - Monk, Miles, Trane & Cannon
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet
Vincent Herring - Alto sax
Javon Jackson - Tenor sax
Gary Smulyan - Baritone sax
Robin Eubanks - Trombone
Stephen Scott - Piano
Peter Washington - Bass
Carl Allen - Drums
This album has been reissued at a significant time, as Freddie Hubbard sadly died at the end of 2008, aged 70.
Hubbard came to prominence in the 1960s and played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and a huge number of other famous jazz musicians, including Max Roach, Herbie Hancock, Oliver Nelson, John Coltrane and Ornette Coleman - as well as leading his own groups.
This album was recorded for the Music Masters label in 1995 - three years after Freddie disastrously split his lip, which became infected. This seriously diminished his previous talent for brilliant playing and its effects are regrettably noticeable on this album. His trumpet still speaks out with authority but his solos tend to consist of fragmentary passages which fail to cohere. although there are flashes of the old Hubbard in occasional startling runs. And he could still vary his tone effectively from outspoken to mellow.
The album is to a great extent saved by the excellent musicians that Freddie assembled for the session, which pays tribute to four jazzmen whose initials and nicknames make up the CD title - Miles (Davis), (Thelonious) Monk, (John Col)trane and Cannon(ball Adderley). Two tunes are dedicated to each of these musicians. Freddie actually wrote four of the pieces himself, starting with One of a Kind, a tribute to Miles Davis, which Hubbard originally composed for the VSOP album. It opens the album with a bang. The first solo comes from pianist Stephen Scott, who provides some fine playing throughout the CD. Hubbard's solo displays some of his old fire, and Javon Jackson adds some swirling tenor sax.
The next two tracks are dedicated to John Coltrane: his famous tune Naima (where Hubbard proves he could be soulfully mellifluous) and Freddie's composition Spirit of Trane, which captures Coltrane's wild abandon. Charles Lloyd's The Song My Lady Sings and Hubbard's One for Cannon are tributes to Cannonball Adderley, with Vincent Herring appropriately delivering eloquent alto sax on both numbers.
Off Minor is by Thelonious Monk, and Freddie Hubbard's rather halting solo seems well-suited to such a dislocated tune. D minor Mint is another homage to Monk - written by Hubbard but arranged by David Weiss, who helped Hubbard make some later recordings like New Colors and On the Real Side.
All Blues is, of course, one of Miles Davis's most famous compositions, with Hubbard's trumpet quavering but inspiring. Vincent Herring's alto is much more fluent, gliding across bar-lines, and equally worthwhile solos are added by Javon Jackson and Stephen Scott.
Because of the leader's understandable difficulties, this album is not necessarily the best way to remember Freddie Hubbard, although it may be a salutary lesson to brass players not to try too hard.
Tony Augarde, Musicweb-international.com