Freddie Hubbard Quintet ‘At Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall / Hamburg 1979 (Jazzline) 4/5

Freddie Hubbard, like Andrew Hill and Eric Dolphy, was one of those adventurous musicians who embraced the free jazz recordings of the 1960s, whilst firmly rooted within the more blues and bop approach that his influences such as Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown had embued over his early formative years.

Featuring as a sideman on many great albums including Oliver Nelson’s ‘Blues and The Abstract Truth’, Eric Dolphy’s ‘Out To Lunch’, Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage’ and Wayne Shorter’s ‘The All Seeing Eye’, Freddie Hubbard began his role as a bandleader in the early 1960s for Blue Note Records with albums including ‘Open Sesame’, ‘The Artistry Of’, and ‘Breaking Point’ before moving onto record such classics as ‘Straight Life’, ‘Backlash’ and Black Angel’.

This latest release is a treasured moment in the history of live recordings featuring Freddie Hubbard live at the Hamburg venue, Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall, recorded for the German radio broadcaster NDR. Thankfully the tapes were kept intact and in good shape. With 6 tracks over around 65 minutes, the live appearance allows the musicians more room to breathe.

Also contributing towards this archive treasure are the drummer Carl Burnett, Hadley Caliman on tenor saxophone/flute, two musicians who continued to play alongside Freddie Hubbard in the years that followed this recording. Both bassist Larry Klein and pianist Billy Childs featured on the trumpeter’s 1982 fusion album ‘Born To Be Blue’ on which the track ‘Gibraltar’ became a much loved underground track. That same year Larry Klein married Joni Mitchell and went on to become a highly successful producer.

Stretching out over 18 minutes this live version of the ‘Little Sunflower’ composition allows each musician to create something special from the moment and it’s Hadley Caliman providing some sharp clear sounds on flute with graceful and flowing changes that lifts the occasion. The rhythm swings between uptempo and a more relaxing mode. It’s when the tempo drops we hear the exceptional 22-year-old pianist Billy Childs come into his own. The leader finishes off the track with some sparse relaxed notes that float and fade with a relaxed exit. It’s an opportunity to hear a version of Little Sunflower that is more open and explorative and a change from the classic versions such as that on the much referenced 1979 released ‘Love Connection’ album featuring, vocalist Al Jarreau, which was sampled by contemporary artists including Pépé Bradock and A Tribe Called Quest.

Frank Sinatra popularised the early 50s American songbook classic, ‘Here’s That Rainy Day’, but the Wes Montgomery version more likely gave Freddie Hubbard the inspiration to include the composition on this album. Both the guitarist and trumpeter stemmed from Indianapolis and worked together before the trumpeter left for the bright lights and big city. On this track, there’s an affectionate nostalgic nod as he plays throughout the 9 minutes with drummer Carl Burnett laying down a soft walking rhythm, which allows for the sparse notes and reflective warmth to emanate through the trumpet.

The shortest track on the album is the straight uptempo swinging ‘Blues For Duane’; a buoyant composition for Freddie Hubbard’s son which featured on the MPS album ‘Hub For Hubbard’ although the sound seems much more uplifting on this live version.

On ‘One Of A Kind’ the young 22 year old pianist Billy Childs contributes greatly to this lengthy composition with some superb imaginative flair and inventive solos that accompany the leader and the group as they weave in and out of the changing dynamics. The track stretches out over 23 minutes creating the perfect platform for each musician to explore and improvise.

From his later recordings as a leader, this quintet is definitely one of the strongest for the trumpeter’s best sound and vision. Bassist Larry Klein and pianist Billy Childs had both toured and recorded with Freddie Hubbard for some time and the drummer Carl Burnett and saxophonist Hadley Caliman seem a perfect fit. It’s another important album from Freddie Hubbard’s wonderful career as a musician and composer.

Mark Jones