Up to 84% in savings when you subscribe to The Absolute Sound
Logo Close Icon

Begin typing your search above and press return to search. Press Esc to cancel.

Trumpeter on Fire

Trumpeter on Fire

Founded in 1983, Mosaic Records now has almost 300 compilations under its belt. The fact that its latest project, The Complete Freddie Hubbard Blue Note & Impulse ’60s Studio Sessions, compiles historic recordings featuring many of the best players from that period tells us that Mosaic is still mining a treasure trove. For lovers of Blue Note, Impulse, modern jazz, trumpet, and hard bop, this 7-CD box set containing 70 songs Hubbard recorded as a leader on studio sessions between 1960 and 1966 is a must. On all but four tracks, the original recordings for these stereo performances were engineered by Rudy Van Gelder at his studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. The remastering engineer for this compilation, Malcolm Addey, worked from 24/192 files, and these recordings do a fine job of capturing that classic Van Gelder sound. Complete with a 12 x 12 booklet that contains class black-and-white photographs by Francis Woolf, a detailed discography, and liner notes by Bob Blumenthal, the set chronicles a sweet spot not only in the history of Blue Note and Impulse but in modern jazz in general.

An Indianapolis native, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard moved to New York City in 1958. As a sideman, Hubbard performed with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Bobby Hutcherson, and many other artists, and as a leader he was also a force to be reckoned with. In 1960, the 22-year-old recorded his first solo album on Blue Note. What followed was a flurry of activity involving numerous high-profile sessions on both Blue Note and Impulse. Everything on this compilation was recorded between 1960 and 1966. The Blue Note dates include original stereo recordings as well as outtakes from Open Sesame, Goin’ Up, Hub Cap, Ready for Freddie, Hub-Tones, Breaking Point!, Blue Spirits, and Here to Stay, and the set also includes three tracks from a final studio session in 1966. Also, the box includes two Impulse sessions, The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard and The Body & the Soul.

On all the sessions on the Mosaic set, Hubbard surrounds himself with an elite squadron of players. Tenor saxophonists for these dates include Hank Mobley, Joe Henderson, and Wayne Shorter. Because the stature of Tina Brooks has risen with time but recordings of Brooks are scarce, the tenor player’s appearance on Open Sesame is a rare treat, and James Spaulding’s superb performances on alto sax and flute remind us why Hubbard repeatedly called upon this still overlooked player. Two artists we strongly associate with more “out” jazz—Sun Ra right-hand man John Gilmore and Eric Dolphy—also make significant contributions. Pianists on these dates include Cedar Walton, Harold Mabern, Ronnie Matthews, and McCoy Tyner. Sam Jones, Paul Chambers, Art Davis, Reggie Workman are among the bassists, and drummers include Elvin Jones, Pete La Roca, Philly Joe Jones, and Joe Chambers. Elite players all, and—to state the obvious—there are no weak links in these lineups.

And let’s not forget Hubbard’s talents as a trumpet player. Even on his earliest dates, there was no question about his technical prowess or his ability to swing. Hubbard was a remarkably versatile and extremely confident player who, while soloing, seemed to have the technical facility to execute whatever came into his head. It’s been said that his experience with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers helped solidify a sense of narrative clarity, and his solos here do tell a story. As it progresses chronologically, the Mosaic box set also spins a tale, one that matches the development of jazz during that era. Hubbard’s earliest efforts were classic examples of hard bop small-group Blue Note sessions. As a leader during this period, Hubbard continued to stretch the canvas. By the time he released 1964’s Breaking Point!—an aptly titled album that’s often edgy, angular, and spiky—Hubbard was playing jazz that tested the boundaries of bop. With his technical facility and imaginative range and scope, it’s clear why his talents would be called upon for such historic groundbreaking sessions as Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation (1961), Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch (1964), and Ornette Coleman’s Ascension (1966). As a leader, Hubbard didn’t venture as far out as these artists, but his music did an equally impressive job of capturing the energy, friction, tension, electricity, and intensity that we associate with the 1960s. Truly, there was something in the air, and because Hubbard was one of many jazz artists who tapped into the zeitgeist during that decade, this Mosaic set is a particularly compelling compilation.


Jeff Wilson

By Jeff Wilson

This will take some explaining, but I can connect the dots between pawing through LPs at a headshop called Elysian Fields in Des Moines, Iowa, as a seventh grader, and becoming the Music Editor for The Absolute Sound. At that starting point—around 1970/71—Elysian Fields had more LPs than any other store in Des Moines. Staring at all the colorful covers was both tantalizing and frustrating. I had no idea who most of the artists were, because radio played only a fraction of what was current. To figure out what was going on, I realized that I needed to build a record collection—and as anyone who’s visited me since high school can testify, I succeeded. Record collecting was still in my blood when, starting in the late 1980s, the Cincinnati Public Library book sale suddenly had an Elysian Fields quantity of LPs from people who’d switched to CDs. That’s where I met fellow record hawk Mark Lehman, who preceded me as music editor of TAS. Mark introduced me to Jonathan Valin, whose 1993 detective novel The Music Lovers depicts the battles between record hawks at library sales. That the private eye in the book, Harry Stoner, would stumble upon a corpse or two while unraveling the mystery behind the disappearance of some rare Living Stereo platters made perfect sense to me. After all, record collecting is serious business. Mark knew my journalistic experience included concert reviews for The Cincinnati Enquirer and several long, sprawling feature articles in the online version of Crawdaddy. When he became TAS music editor in 2008, he contacted me about writing for the magazine. I came on board shortly after the latest set of obituaries had been written for vinyl—and, as fate had it, right when the LP started to make yet another unexpected comeback. Suddenly, I found myself scrambling to document all the record companies pressing vinyl. Small outfits were popping up world-wide, and many were audiophile-oriented, plus already existing record companies began embracing the format again. Trying to keep track of everything made me feel, again, like that overwhelmed seventh grader in Elysian Fields, and as Music Editor I’ve found that keeping my finger on the pulse of the music world also requires considerable detective work. I’ve never had a favorite genre, but when it comes time to sit down and do some quality listening, for me nothing beats a well-recorded small-group jazz recording on vinyl. If a stereo can give me warmth and intimacy, tonal accuracy, clear imaging, crisp-sounding cymbals, and deep, woody-sounding bass, then I’m a happy camper.

More articles from this editor

Adblocker Detected

"Neque porro quisquam est qui dolorem ipsum quia dolor sit amet, consectetur, adipisci velit..."

"There is no one who loves pain itself, who seeks after it and wants to have it, simply because it is pain..."