The LondonJazz-Beachcomber continues to showcase potentially overlooked gems among lesser titles and labels, low price of entry to match. Today, something from the Black Forest is on the menu, and it’s not gateau. Freddie Hubbard and The Hub of Hubbard. And for dessert, a sortie into live music performance and some thoughts, you might want to add to.
Cover photo (left to right): Richard Davis, Freddie Hubbard, Louis Hayes, Roland Hanna and Eddie Daniels. Mr Hubbard’s striped pants, medallion and astrakan hat nominated Most Unsuitable Dresswear seen on an LP Cover. However Freddie seems quite relaxed with it, maybe when it’s all wrong, it’s alright?
Selection: Blues for Duane (Hubbard)
Freddie Hubbard (trumpet) Richard Davis (bass) Louis Hayes (drums) Roland Hanna (piano) Eddie Daniels (tenor) recorded at MPS-Studio, Villingen/Black Forest, Dec. 9th, 1969, engineers Willi Fruth and Rolf Donner.
New Artist: Eddie Daniels on Tenor saxophone.
His recording debut as leader was Prestige PR 7506 First Prize (1967) – with a line up taken from fellow members of the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Big Band. The “Prize” refers to first prize for saxophone awarded to Daniels at the Vienna International Jazz Competition, a contest organized by the pianist Fredrich Gulda and sponsored by the city of Vienna. A nice reading of the First Prize album is given at our jazz-writing friend Flophouse Magazine.
Touring Europe with the Thad Jones-Mel Lewis orchestra found Eddie Daniels conveniently available for the Black Forest studio and the recording of Hubbard’s Hub of Hubbard.
Daniels made a handful of records in the late ’60s and early ’70s, recording for Prestige, Columbia and Muse, but his big breakthrough came in the mid-eighties with a string of albums for the fusion label GRP (ugh! Digital Master!) which then saw him return to his original Julliard graduation instrument – the clarinet, on which instrument he was ranked among the clarinet-alumni of Benny Goodman, Buddy DeFranco and Artie Shaw.
In the woodwind department, my personal preference is the saturnine bass clarinet of Eric Dolphy, the faun and devil’s spawn, but in the right hands, straight clarinet can be a fearsome improvisational and expressive instrument. You just have to press the erase memory button on “popular clarinet”. I’d not listened to Eddie before, something perhaps I should put right, new ears in place.
Daniels signature ’60s moody moustache since moved to full beard, and his musical metier moved between jazz and classical music, with Leonard Bernstein describing his virtuosity in classical performance as “a thoroughly well-bred demon” . Eddie Daniels is still going strong, age 76.
Of trumpet giants, Brownie is long gone, Miles is Miles, a lifetime journey with no comparator, likewise the cool ennui of Chet Baker, all distinctive voices of their own. Of the rest, two trumpeters stand out to me in the ’60s mid-field: Freddie Hubbard and Donald Byrd, both in the right place at the right time. It is Hubbard and Byrd in ensemble that offer a flow of exciting ’60s small group music (for Blue Note), joined later in the decade by Woody Shaw. Though there were hundreds of good trumpet players, these three stand out, for me, at least.
Only Shaw maintained the original direction of travel, while both Byrd and Hubbard adapted to commercial demands of the day, so this tail-end outing by Hubbard is one to celebrate. This is music with confidence in itself, it knows exactly where it has come from, and is in no hurry to go anywhere else.
Despite its recording studio provenance, Hub of Hubbard has the feel of a live club date, with Freddie showing the previous decade’s experience – rich bright tone, strong ideas, immaculate execution, and soulful musicality, in the trusted hands of his sidemen, all masters of their craft. If you come across this album, it is worthy of your attention.
Vinyl: BAP 5036 – UK 1974 issue (Decca pressing ) of German MPS 15 267 ST (1969)
BASF/MPS, successor to the much lauded (by themselves) SABA label, issued in the UK by the mighty Decca: German recording meets British pressing, with excellent results.
German 1970 issue, original gatefold:
Decca seemed reluctant to adopt the gatefold cover, calling for major surgery. To make the UK flipback cover, Decca discarded the spiral “beer mat” on the front (losing the play on words “hub”), replacing it with the group photo from the original back of the gatefold, with Freddie’s inside picture reduced a half page to fit the liner notes underneath it, job done.
This Sunday afternoon was spent enjoying the music of British luminary of the tenor, the formidable Simon Spillett and his Quartet in South London’s answer to Manhattan: East Croydon.
The Oval Tavern, East Croydon, stands isolated like John Carpenter’s abandoned Precinct 13 amidst the high-rise new-build apartment regeneration of this South London commuter suburb. The Tavern is home to an excellent jazz venue, a short walk from East Croydon Station.
Spillett, sharp suit and narrow tie, came fully equipped with a set of drole one-liners in the best Ronnie Scott tradition (sample: (looks around) “this place reminds me of home (pauses) – dark and dingy, and full of strange men…”) His excellent quartet this day fielded British jazz drum legend Spike Wells (pictured below)
Spike took lessons with the great Philly Joe Jones during Jones’ stay in the UK in 1967-9 (I can still hear that rifle-shot Philly kick there) He became a member of the Tubby Hayes Quartet at the end of the ’60s through to 1973, and worked with many of the great visiting US soloists at Ronnie Scotts – Roland Kirk, Stan Getz, Art Farmer, Johnny Griffin and James Moody. That is an education you can’t buy.
His force and drive defied age, power that reverberated through the internal organs, moving air.. The whole band swung better than any time I have ever heard them. On piano was the excellent John Horler, another stalwart of the British jazz scene of the ’60s and ’70s (with Tommy Whittle Tony Coe, Ronnie Ross), and completing the line up, the nimble and fleet-fingered Tim Wells on bass.
Simon’s ever-evolving repertoire featured classic compositions of Victor Feldman, Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson, Tubby Hayes, Jimmy Heath, and many I couldn’t put my finger on but recognised immediately. I envy those who have the ability to match the tune with the composition name and composer. Sassy heads and driving swinging solos, offset with some lovely ballads, in an intimate setting, low ceiling, appreciative listeners and diners maybe a hundred in all, what a nice way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
My thanks to Simon and his band for a great afternoon. I did check with him if it was OK for me to write it up, he was happy, sight unseen, brave man! Also thanks to Man-in-a-Shed for putting his Galaxy S7 phone-camera into service to take a couple of pictures during the gig. Not quite my Sun Ra standard but blame me, I left my camera at home.
The sonics of this live performance took me back to the discussion recently about mono and stereo recordings on vinyl, and to reflect on the relationship between recorded music and live performance.
After a lot of angst, I concluded that live performance does not sound anything like the “musicians in the room” delivery of home stereo. Though sound from the stage was coming from left right and centre, what struck me was not the points-of-the-compass distribution, but the sheer dynamic range of sound from the stage, not any geographical information.
Sounds were loud, hot, soft, sizzling, the snare hit shook the rib-cage, the pizzicato bass rose up from the deepest bass floor, the honking tenor harmonics cut through everything with a knife. And overall it swung like hell, sounded hugely better than my finest home hi-fi experience, and I am not sure that seeing the performance added anything to the music ( I sometimes close my eyes to dig into the music and not get distracted by sight, sacrilege to visual millennials I know)
It is said stereo emulates a performance soundstage, but also that “soundstage” is a mere artefact of “home listening”. The soundstage was certainly the least important element of the live experience, entirely “trivial” compared with the massive tonal and dynamic range. There is something going on to record music, may be the ranges and peaks are smoothed and compressed to fit on a recording, in the same way photography squashes everything into around seven stops from light to dark, a much narrower bandwidth than the real world.
I know live (primarily acoustic) music sounds better than the same recorded music on vinyl, that is not in dispute, not by me at least. The question is: why? I haven’t got the right engineering know-how to explain it better, may be some of you can. The floor is yours.