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Freddie Hubbard: One of a Kind

Freddie Hubbard was just coming out of his Columbia Records period when he taped these two half-hour sessions for the Ad Lib TV show in either 1980 or ’81 (the notes say the former, the credits say the latter). His last recordings for that label had been deservedly the most maligned of the trumpeter’s career, leaning toward fake funk and overarranged fluff. But Hubbard blows seriously at these gigs-as he frequently did in a live setting, no matter what his latest LP sounded like.

And blow he does. While the incendiary invention of Hubbard’s Blue Note work of the ’60s has been tempered, there are more than a few moments here when his soloing is inspired and his leadership unquestionable. Hub comes out grooving on the opening “UK Forty,” and goes out burning on the even more furious “UK Forty-One,” his jittery, fast-fingered runs practically forcing a gasp. On the ballads, particularly “Love Connection” and the midtempo “One of a Kind,” Hub is sweet and soulful, spilling out a flood of birdlike trills. Shifting to a higher register mid-song he ups the ante, goading his bandmates. Keyboardist Billy Childs unexpectedly exits the melody and turns toward something vaguely Asian yet oddly fitting, while drummer Steve Houghton’s short solo is full of power and assurance.

The band is worthy of commendation. The superb Childs, still in his early 20s, is enough of a major contributor that he probably should have received co-billing; his inventive solos and thoughtfully constructed accompaniment put muscle behind Hubbard’s leads. Larry Klein (soon to become Mr. Joni Mitchell) would go on to become one of the most prolific bassists on the jazz and rock scene, and here he shows why: He’s always in the pocket and knows when and how to move things forward unobtrusively.

On “First Light,” the title track of one of Hubbard’s more durable ’70s albums for CTI, the entire quintet syncs up masterfully, Hubbard practically breaking into dance as Childs, on Rhodes, slashes through a series of bold chords and the rhythm section riffs along freely. Whatever he thought of his own recent output, Hubbard was clearly enjoying himself here.

Originally Published