Tying up some loose ends in the discography of important figures in Modern Jazz, I found I had neglected some albums because either I wasn’t convinced of their merit or the pressing wasn’t satisfactory, or in some cases both.
However in the interests of completeness, an occasional post to stir the pot, one in which Freddie Hubbard sticks one toe in the tonal, and the other “out there”, in his later Blue Note, Breaking Point. See what you make of it, its not all about me.
Selection 1: D Minor Mint
Selection 2: Mirrors (Joe Chambers)
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) James Spaulding (alto saxophone, flute) Ronnie Mathews (piano) Eddie Khan (bass) Joe Chambers (drums) Rudy Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, May 7, 1964
There is a saying that if you can’t say something nice, it is better to say nothing at all. Once again, some rules need to be broken. While we all wish for the “good stuff”, Hubbard’s Blue Note title Breaking Point is something of a mixed bag, not Hubbard’s finest album, but then again not without merit. So I’ll post on it regardless.
There is outstanding playing here by Hubbard himself: assured, modal in mood, a beautiful burnished tone, and there are more than a few tracks here to savour. However, the title track Breaking Point is not one. Hubbard climbs on the “out there” bandwagon, something done more successfully by people with far out credentials like Jackie McLean and Grachan Moncur III. The mood is angular and dark, goody-goody, but segues into a “calypso-break”, a faux contraste device which I find inexplicably annoying.
After being spoiled by Hubbard’s earlier Blue Note brass partners (Tina Brooks, Hank Mobley and Wayne Shorter) James Spaulding is unremarkable in my view and flutes rather too much. The only flute welcome on my turntable is Dolphy. However the combination of Mathews, Khan and Chambers is rock solid. Pianist Ronnie Mathews (NYT obituary 2008) was “noted for his harmonic acuity, his imagination as an improviser and his sensitivity as an accompanist” all of which applies to his presence here, and Joe Chambers was recently promoted to my “should listen to more of” list.
From previous experience I tread carefully, as this may be someone’s favourite Hubbard, but on reflection, not essential Hubbard, in contrast with these bop-period must-haves:
Going Up ( Blue Note 1960)
Open Sesame (Blue Note 1960)
Ready for Freddie (Blue Note 1961 – future post)
Hub Cap (Blue Note 1961)
Hub-tones (Blue Note 1962)
Here to Stay (Blue Note unissued 1962)
The Artistry of Freddie Hubbard (Impulse 1962)
Blue Spirits (Blue Note 1965)
The Night of The Cookers (Blue Note 1965)
Beyond here, Hubbard jumped ship to Atlantic (Backlash 1966, High Pressure Blues 1968) and then CTI (Red Clay 1970 Polar AC 1975 ) the more Columbia (Liquid Love, The Love Connection, and similar, I’ll pass on). Any you think merit attention, chip in.
Vinyl: BST 84172 Division of Liberty (re-issue, late ’60s)
A Liberty reissue from the late ’60s, and having recently sung the praises of Division of Liberty, an example of what can go wrong, a cautionary tale. Though early Liberty (1966/7) were an excellent near-equivalent to Blue Note, not all Division of Liberty are equal. Towards the end of its four year tenure of the Blue Note label, Liberty issues were compromised and in some cases quality suffered.
These are all signs of “bad Liberty”, as opposed to “good Liberty”:
The first thing that should set alarm bells ringing is the absence of a VAN GELDER stamp. This reissue has been anonymously re-mastered by an outpost of Liberty, not RVG, and not authentic Blue Note metal-ware. The matrix etching is faint and all but illegible.
A second clue is the label print. Not a Keystone-printed Blue Note and early Liberty, the colours are dark navy blue and off-yellow cream, and the ® below NOTE is malformed, lacking clean separation between the R and its circle, and the text is heavily inked. This label is printed elsewhere not to standard, which ties in with it being re-mastering.
Lastly (a bit of guesswork), the vinyl, which should be shiny rich black, is instead milky, streaked with whitish stains, possibly an extender to reduce cost?
An example of what goes on below the water line in the murky world of re-issues, as well to be aware of.
None of the above telltale signs were familiar to me at the time, none regarding the vinyl were mentioned by the Ebay seller. The absence of the VAN GELDER stamp would have been a warning, but sellers are not obliged to point out what is not there. Caveat Emptor, I should have asked.