Freddie Hubbard: Hub of Hubbard (1969) BASF/MPS

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.

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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)

Artists

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.

Eddie-Daniels-First-Prize-Prestige-1966

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.

Music

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.

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German 1970 issue, original gatefold:

freddie-hubbard-the-hub-of-hubbard-1970-gatefold-1920-ljc[1]

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.

Freddie-Hubbard-Hub-of-Hubbard-MPS-1974-bacl-1920-LJC

Collector’s Corner

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.

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5 thoughts on “Freddie Hubbard: Hub of Hubbard (1969) BASF/MPS

  1. Thank you for your eloquent description of a live performance. I’ve been saying this for a long time: There’s nothing like the experience of a great jazz group playing at a small club. Manhatten used to have such a vibrant jazz scene. Unfortunately, beginning in the 1970s, many great jazz artists moved to Europe. By the early 2000s, most of the greatest had passed away. I’ve heard that the tradition continues, especially in The Netherlands. But I can’t help but mourn the loss of The Manhattan I once knew.

  2. I’ve had the privilege to see Spike Wells play a couple of times at the Bull’s Head in Barnes and completely agree with your observations. An evening spent listening to him play live is an evening very well spent indeed.

  3. Louis Hayes’ style here (except, perhaps, on this particular track) is radically different from how he played on all those iconic records with Trane, Cannonball, and Horace Silver. There was a time when everyone wanted to sound like Tony Williams, and I’m not quite sure if that was a good idea. (There is evidence, however, of Tony referring to early Louis as one of his influences – which would make sense given the age difference, but doesn’t make as much sense stylistically.) Anyway, a lot of things were going on in the mid-sixties, and different drummers may have developed into similar directions simultaneously. Just think of Joe Chambers.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t listen much to the bulk of Louis Hayes’ later recordings.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with your comparison of live vs. recorded music. If you’re fortunate enough to sit relatively close to the stage and out of range of the PA system, then you get a general sense of sound directionality. But it’s not important to the listening experience and seems to be dominated by visual input. And it’s certainly not that “air around the instruments” sense that we’re so proud of in our home stereos. Perhaps audio equipment manufacturers gave up on trying to reproduce the dynamics of live music and instead settled on a more obtainable set of audio tricks, regardless of their relevance. We’re such suckers for good marketing.

  5. Interesting choice of LP as being affordable vintage vinyl it was on my “to buy” list. I was going to go for the original German first issue that sells for about £15 but having just read your review, I went onto discogs and purchased the UK pressing complete with stripy trousers and medallion for £6.99. Thanks.
    This is at least your 2nd documented visit to my home town. I kind of assumed that you live somewhere near Dulwich but it’s practically impossible to reach East Croydon from there by train so now I have you down for Brockley or Honor Oak or somewhere that’s en-route for London Bridge. I’ve been to the Oval Tavern a handful of times but hadn’t realised that they host live music. Then again I left South London in 1996 and don’t return very often.
    Not sure I have anything very intelligent to say about live music. I spent about 4 years working for a company in Manchester unloading sound and lighting rigs for concerts, mostly rock and pop. In the winter we’d work in theatres and concert halls and in the summer we’d build stages for big festivals. The music was all fairly ghastly. AC/DC, Van Halen, Shaking Stevens, The Police, Phil Collins etc. I finally quit after an Iron Maiden concert at Sheffield City Hall. Backstage was all long windy corridors that weren’t really designed for modern showbiz. We had to navigate three 10ft tall steel framed, fibreglass clad “Egyptian” sarcophagi onto the stage and I trapped my fingers so many times I lost count. Later on as I watched three grown men step out of them surrounded by dry ice and strobe lighting whilst simultaneously playing power chords, I decided I’d had enough.
    The concert that sticks in my memory though was rather different. We worked for an Indian band that played sitar and tablas and these strange little accordion like instruments. The venue was Birmingham Town Hall and the place was full to bursting with members of the local Indian community. Their pa system was tiny and looked more like an expensive home hifi set up than the kind of thing that Status Quo might normally have us hump in and out. In fact we spent almost all afternoon moving cut flowers onto the stage so that by about 6pm the stage looked like Covent Garden. The music didn’t make any sense to me at all but the audience was going completely berserk and I couldn’t help but enjoy it. Afterwards the promoter was so happy that he took us for a curry in Handsworth (where my Grandma came from but that’s another story).

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