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Freddie Hubbard: Music Is Here (Live at ORTF Paris 1973) (Wewantsounds)

A review of the trumpeter's live recording on French state radio

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Freddie Hubbard: Music Is Here (Live at ORTF Paris 1973) (Wewantsounds)
The cover of Music Is Here (Live at ORTF Paris 1973) by Freddie Hubbard

In the early ’70s, Freddie Hubbard was paralleling Miles Davis in going electric and funky. Unlike Miles, though, Hubbard’s recordings were increasingly defined by his label, CTI, which immersed him in ever-larger ensembles and lush Don Sebesky string arrangements. It’s easy to get lost in the density and to miss how solid the material was—and how hot the soloists could burn on it.

Which makes Music Is Here, a 1973 live broadcast on French state radio, invaluable. The ensemble slims down to a brilliant quintet (Hubbard, tenor man Junior Cook, electric pianist George Cables, bassist Kent Brinkley, drummer Michael Carvin) that provides all the background and interaction the music needs. Better still is the sound. The room’s ambience is both direct (the intro pulse on the opening “Sky Dive,” played by Cables, Brinkley, and Carvin, can knock the listener back) and, well, roomy, giving each instrument space to resonate. Cook’s long, delicious solo in “Povo” carries audibly through the hall as if his bandmates were giving him a mile-wide berth. They’re with him at every step, but never obtrusive (with Hubbard even taking his obbligato off-mic).

Most important, this space also gives you, intrepid jazz fan, room to really hear it. The four long tunes are all Hubbard’s, and man, do they kill. “Sky Dive,” complex in structure while loaded with hooks, deserves to be a standard—which Hubbard and Cook can clarify without every instrument in the world behind them. Ditto “First Light,” with luminescent work from Cables that should have made him a huge star and bravura runs from Hubbard that show why he was one. The trumpeter/composer still had gold, and Music Is Here proves that it deserved to shine on its own.

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Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay

Michael J. West

Michael J. West is a jazz journalist in Washington, D.C. In addition to his work on the national and international jazz scenes, he has been covering D.C.’s local jazz community since 2009. He is also a freelance writer, editor, and proofreader, and as such spends most days either hunkered down at a screen or inside his very big headphones. He lives in Washington with his wife and two children.