Thursday, June 18, 2009

CD of the Day - "Freddie Hubbard: High Energy"

CD of the Day
Freddie Hubbard: "High Energy" (Wounded Bird) 2009
US Release Date: July 9, 2009

First-ever worldwide CD reissue of Hubbard's debut LP for Columbia, recorded in 1974 after a string of splendid albums on the CTI label under the aegis of Creed Taylor.
Arranged & conducted by Dale Oehler
Produced by Paul A. Rotchild with the assistance of Mike Levy
The Freddie Hubbard Quintet (with George Cables, Kent Brinkley, Ralph Penland & Junior Cook, the same basic team heard on "Keep Your Soul Together," his prior CTI date) is joined by such guests as Harvey Mason, Dick Hyde, Victor Feldman (on percussion!), King Errisson, Ernie Watts, Joe Sample, Dean Parks et al. Six long tracks. 2 by Cables, 2 by FH and 2 by Stevie Wonder: a lyrical version of "Black Maybe" with a string section, and a frenetic take on "Too High". Wounded Bird licensed the tapes from Sony, but there are no bonus tracks here, although the sessions yielded six other tracks (two different tunes and four alternate takes, all remaining unreleased).
Here are some insightful comments borrowed from my dear friend Doug Payne's "Sound Insights" blog:

High Energy (1974): Freddie Hubbard left CTI Records in 1973, having become a much bigger star than most jazz players could ever hope to be, to sign a million-dollar contract with Columbia Records, long the home of Hubbard's hero and fellow trumpeter Miles Davis. In addition to the money, Hubbard sought more control of his music than CTI allowed him, and the opportunity to record with his own band rather than the all-star studio assemblages CTI forced upon him. For his first Columbia album, High Energy (1974), Hubbard did use his own band, a quintet that featured George Cables on piano and Junior Cook on tenor sax (both were also heard on Hubbard's final CTI album, Keep Your Soul Together), plus a collective sweetening of L.A. studio musicians, arranged with surprisingly minimal impact by Dale Oehler.
There are two strong Hubbard originals here ("Baraka Sasa" and the album's single, "Crisis"), two excellent Cables originals (the Hubbard-like "Camel Rise," also arranged by Oehler for Bobby Hutcherson's 1975 album Montara, and the slightly well-known "Ebony Moonbeams," which Hubbard also covered on his Japanese-only live LP, Gleam, and Cables also performed on his 1975 solo debut as well as with Hutcherson on the vibist's 1979 album Un Poco Loco) and two Stevie Wonder tunes ("Too High" and the little-known "Black Maybe").
While the arrangements are more minimal than even those that Don Sebesky provided Hubbard at CTI, the electronics quotient is a little higher than usual here with Ian Underwood adding Headhunters-like synth effects (ala Patrick Gleeson), Hubbard employing echo effects and Cables on electric piano throughout. While Hubbard sounds especially strong here, very much in his element, the album never really rises above a genuinely engaging listening experience. But, in praise of the thing, it is a genuinely engaging listening experience.

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