Fastball: Live at the Left Bank
Label M keeps coming up with top live albums cut at Baltimore's Left Bank Jazz Society's concerts in the 1960s and 1970s. This Hubbard disc sure is impressive. Recorded in 1967, the trumpeter is joined by tenorman Bennie Maupin, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Herbie Lewis and drummer Freddie Waits. It's a loose, informal date, but not a sloppy one. Hubbard's in good spirits, as his comments to the audience indicate, and his buoyant playing certainly echoes this. In terms of his range and technique he's in top form, and he takes a lot of chances, producing a lot of impressive pyrotechnical playing.
Hubbard performs a variety of tunes at different tempos, but all of his work is extroverted; even on the ballad "Willow Weep for Me" he's far from pensive, playing complex phrases with considerable passion. He even does some open horn growling on the album, which is not characteristic of him. There are places here where Clifford Brown's influence on him is more apparent than usual. For all his aggressiveness, though, Hubbard remains in control, pacing himself nicely. Maupin and Barron sound good, but get surprisingly little solo space.