Friday, July 24, 2009

CD of the Day - "Freddie Hubbard: Skagly"

CD of the Day
Freddie Hubbard: "Skagly" (Wounded Bird) 2009
CD Reissue Date in the U.S.: June 9, 2009

This is the first domestic (ie, USA) CD release of Hubbard's final album for Columbia (recorded in Hollywood, CA, in December 1979, released on LP in 1980), thanks to the Wounded Bird label, which licensed it from Sony Music.
The booklet of this CD reissue reproduces the original non-gatefold LP cover, but with no additional info nor liner notes. Excelent remastering sound.
Original album produced by Hubbard himself, with Michael Davenport credited as associate producer.
Highlights; the opening funkyfied-fusion tune "Happiness Is Now" (by FH) and bassist Larry Klein's "Cascais."
Featuring: Billy Childs, George Duke, Larry Klein, Carl Burnett, Paulinho da Costa, Hadley Caliman, Jeff Baxter & Philip Ranelin.
Doug Payne's comments, borrowed from his Sound Insights blog, follow:

Skagly (1980): The title of Hubbard's final Columbia album has always been confounding. "Skag" or "scag," in my day (or my way of understanding), was a derogatory term used for ugly girls. But there's a pretty lady pictured on the cover. So that can't be right. Unbeknownst to me, at least at the time anyway, "skag" was also the jargon used to describe heroin. So what exactly is Skagly supposed to mean? Who knows? Perhaps the heroin angle is what led many to believe that Hubbard's fall from the music (or grace) in the early 1990s was drug related, despite repeated insistences that it was due to a busted lip. The rumors still persist. However it's meant, I'm not sure what Hubbard is meant to be celebrating here other than a trip back to his roots.

After his many "arranged" albums, Hubbard returns here to a focus on his own band - like he did, to some extent, on his 1974 Columbia debut, High Energy. This band features yet another Joe Henderson clone, Hadley Caliman, on tenor sax, Billy (William) Childs on keyboards, Larry Klein on bass and Carl Burnett on drums. It's a sort of a "back-to-basics" album with two Hubbard originals (the rather lame "Happiness Is Now" and the significant title track, which features a solo break copped from Herb Alpert's "Rise," of all things, and doesn't sound like something someone on smack would be able to do), a typically anachronistic ballad ("Summer of 42"), Larry Klein's "Cascais," arranged to sound like one of Woody Shaw's tracks of the period, and Childs's "Rustic Celebration," which features this pianist - a cross between Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner - at his very best.

Sadly, the album came and went without much notice at all. Like so many of Hubbard's Columbia recordings, it's absolutely worth the effort, if for nothing else other than the good playing heard, particularly on the title track, by all concerned, even "extras" George Duke on clavinet and Doobie Brother Jeff "Skunk" Baxter on guitar (both on the title track only). Trombonist Phil Ranelin is also prominent in the background of two tracks ("Cascais" and "Rustic Celebration"), both of which seem to be striving for a Woody Shaw sort of thing - something the label, no doubt, forced on Hubbard and certainly hastened his departure to other recording climes. One wonders what Hubbard must have thought of the recordings he made with Shaw several years later.

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