Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Freddie Hubbard - Without a Song (Blue Note, 2009)

Apparently this archival release was in the works before the trumpeter's untimely demise in December of 2008, which takes the air of ghoulish opportunism away from this project. What we are left with is a moderately interesting snapshot of Hubbard touring Europe as part of a jazz concert package with an ad-hoc, if talented, band consisting of Roland Hanna on piano, Ron Carter on bass and Louis Hayes on drums. The lack of a saxophonist in the group puts the focus clearly on Hubbard and he responds well, playing with strength and integrity if not complete clarity. He is really locked in with the drummer Hayes throughout the album, the two clearly inspire each other, and drive each other like whirling dervishes. The highlight of the album for me was a stirring performance of "A Night In Tunisia" which opens with an upbeat piano trio setting the scene for Hubbard to rip into with a scalding solo filled with electricity and prodded ever onward by Hayes powerful drumming. The title track "Without a Song" has some strong and supple swing and features some effortless interplay between trumpet and drums. "Body and Soul" usually a feature for saxophonists and it seems a little stale in this context, as Hubbard pokes and prods at the melody like an unappetizing entree before finally picking up the pace. "Space Track" makes up for any lack of enthusiasm as Hubbard, veteran of Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz and John Coltrane's Ascension rips hard into his own version of free playing, grounded in bop and the blues, he's really going for it here, straining for the peak and sounding tough and invincible. Hubbard fans will rejoice for this example of their man in fine form in a live session, but I found it to be something of a mixed bag. I think the nature of the package tour really didn't suit this group well, hustled on and off the stage after thirty minutes robbed them of the ability to develop enough chemistry to create truly excellent music.
Without A Song - amazon.com

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