A confident trumpet line opens Freddie Hubbard's latest recording-and it's not his. Unfortunately, this gives a pretty good indication of what's to come. Hubbard's well-known lip troubles have prevented him from recording with any regularity in the last few years and Hip Bop obviously intends New Colors as a reintroduction of sorts; Hubbard takes solo space on every tune, which, aside from Chick Corea's "Inner Space," are all penned by the man himself. But if this album is any indication, that reintroduction is the last thing Hubbard needs right now. On New Colors, the horn man is a frustrated mess. He tries to make something happen when he plays, but after squeezing out a confident phrase or two, his solos quickly break down into a disconcerting aimlessness-strings of flailing, muttering half-phrases and forced, wheezing high notes. At the close of "Blues for Miles," Hubbard actually tries to spar with guest altoist Javon Jackson. Thankfully, a heads-up engineer enacts a mercy fade. Anybody who knows and loves Hubbard's vintage playing will find this a painful listen. Hubbard is, at best, only an honorary presence on his own recording.
Somebody at Hip Bop had the good sense to saddle Hubbard with a larger ensemble full of decent to good players, however, and if most of the guys in the band charge ahead and leave Hubbard in the dust, it only helps make New Colors a halfway listenable album. A fair amount of credit is due to trumpeter David Weiss, he of the aforementioned confident trumpet line that opens the CD. Weiss gives up the solo space to Hubbard, but plays on all the heads and works up rich arrangements for Hubbard's music. His cool, vaporous arrangement of "Blue Spirits"-Weiss' best effort on the recording-wouldn't sound out of place next to Oliver Nelson's better work.
Nevertheless, with so much good postbop already out there, a "not bad, considering…" conclusion hardly pushes this one over the top.