Saturday, August 17, 2013
CD Box Set of the Month - "Freddie Hubbard: "Bundle of Joy/Super Blue/The Love Connection"
Freddie Hubbard: "Bundle of Joy/Super Blue/The Love Connection" (BGO)
Bundle of Joy (***)
Super Blue (*****)
The Love Connection (*****)
The UK label Beat Goes On (BGO) has just released a 2-CD set including 3 of Freddie Hubbard's best albums for Columbia.
It would be unfair to compare "Bundle of Joy," originally released in 1977, to any of FH's superb CTI dates like "Red Clay," "First Light" and "Sky Dive". So, just try to enjoy it with no prejudice.
I love "Bundle of Joy" - produced, arranged & conducted by Bert DeCoteaux - for several reasons, including a personal one. The first time I drove in a LA freeway, its title track, a delightful and very hip tune composed by Hubbard, was playing on the radio. Really an unforgettable sensation.
But the highlight is a haunting version of "Portrait of Jenny," on which the leader's impeccable flugelhorn is backed only by Dorothy Ashby (harp) and David Garfield (celeste). Beyond words.
The album also includes the soul-ballad "I Don't Wanna Lose You" (by Thom Bell & Linda Creed, my favorite composers of the "Sound of Philadelphia" era, having written such songs as "People Make The World Go Round" and "Betcha By Golly Wow," both previously recorded by Hubbard during his CTI days) and two more FH originals: "Tucson Stomp" (tenor sax solo by the underrated Azar Lawrence) and "Rahsann" (tenor sax solo by Ernie Watts).
The large cast of musicians includes Brazilian percussion master Paulinho da Costa on congas & timbales, David T. Walker & Jay Graydon on guitars, Carlos Vega & Ed Green on drums, George Bohanon (miscredited Bohannon on the CD booklet) & Garnett Brown (mispelled Garnet) on trombones.
"Rainy Day Song," including a nice Fender Rhodes solo by keyboardist Dave Garfield, and "From Now On" are two very pleasant "jazz-disco" moments. So, have fun and daaaaaaaaaance!!!
One of Freddie Hubbard's best albums of his post-CTI days, "Super Blue" (1978) had been previously reissued on CD in Japan, in the early 90s, and re-appeared here in the USA market through an agremment between Sony BMG and Mosaic Contemporary in 2007.
Six great tracks. Four Hubbard's originals (with George Benson guesting on the bossa-flavoured "To Her Ladyship"), a beautiful Gino Vannelli ballad ("The Surest Things Can Change") and Bernard Ighner's title tune, on which producer Dale Oehler overdubbed a Moog bass line.
The all-star backing group includes Kenny Barron (acoustic piano & Fender Rhodes), Ron Carter (acoustic bass), Jack DeJohnette (drums), Hubert Laws (flute) and Joe Henderson (tenor sax).
"The Love Connection" (1979) is one of my desert island discs. Claus Ogerman, the genius arranger and composer who also produced this sublime album, considers his score for the closing track, "Lazy Afternoon," his personal favorite arrangement ever! Curiously, but not surprisingly, since he adores that haunting Jerome Moss melody, Ogerman most recently recorded a new arrangement of the tune on his album with Danilo Perez, "Across The Crystal Sea," featuring Cassandra Wilson on an impeccable vocal performance. This track was nominated for a Grammy in the "Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist".
But all the tracks on "The Love Connection" are outstanding, starting by the exciting title tune on which Claus shows his underrated skills as brass arranger (skills that were overshadowed only because of his genius as a string orchestrator; or, like Freddie himself wrote in the back cover, as "the greatest string composer of the century.") There are great solos by Freddie on trumpet and Chick Corea on MiniMoog, propelled by Stanley Clarke on electric bass, Chester Thompson (then a member of Genesis) on drums, and the late Brazilian percussionist Rubens Bassini on congas & tambourine.
"Brigitte", dedicated to his wife, pictured with him in the album cover, had been previously recorded on the CTI LP "Keep Your Soul Together". But this orchestral is far superior, also thanks to Corea's solo on the acoustic piano and the late Chuck Domanico's pulse on the acoustic bass.
Then comes another wondrous orchestration, featuring French horns and strings: Claus' own composition "This Dream". A dream made in heaven, indeed. Hubbard's tone on the flugelhorn is simply glorious and astonishing, making the highly difficult melodic line sound apparently very simple. Maybe his greatest flugel performance ever.
"Little Sunflower" got a lot of airplay in the USA jazz radio stations at the time of the original release in 1979, mostly due to the presence of Al Jarreau, then at the height of his popularity. Al added beautiful lyrics to one of Hubbard's most famous tunes, previously recorded as "Sunflower" on a marvelous self-titled LP recorded by Milt Jackson (with Hubbard as guest soloist) for CTI in 1972, arranged by Don Sebesky, who is also nominated for a Grammy in the same category on which Ogerman was nominated. Both Corea and Bassini shine once again, but Jarreau doesn't scats. And Hubbard sounds superb on the flugel one more time. Now, if you really love music, order this reissue right now!