March 4, 2024

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CD review: Freddie Hubbard Quintet – Live Under The Sky, Tokyo, 1982 – 2024: Video, CD covers

The short-lived ‘Super Star Quintet’, which formed specially to play at the Live Under The Sky festival in Tokyo in July and August 1982, was accurately named.

After all, those involved – tenor saxophonist Joe Handerson, pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Ron Carter, drummer Tony Williams and trumpeter Freddy Hubbard – were all living legends at the time. Famously, the quintet’s expressive, exuberant performances – think fizzing grooves, almost telepathic communication, extended improvisations and blindingly good solos – were captured by (and later broadcast on) NHK Radio. This fantastic album presents highlights from their performances and is an essential purchase for any jazz enthusiast.

Another in the welcome series of remasterings from the German MPS label. Freddie Hubbard fans will be interested in the date this was recorded: January 1982 – immediately before he signed with CTI and, in what we might call his golden era, made eight classic fusion albums with them, including Red Clay, Straight Life, First Light and Sky Dive.

The tightness and empathy Hubbard’s touring group had achieved on the road is very evident (they cut these tracks in Villingen, southern Germany, during a break between European engagements). Yet despite the joyous sense of freedom, you might also detect a certain frustration, a suggestion that there were might be places to go other than continuing to lash away at these old standards. Just One Of Those Things is a case in point: they can hardly be bothered to play the head before launching into a suicidally fast über-bop rendition, overladen with lots of splashy cymbal from Hayes. The head out is perfunctory.

The pace relents with Hubbard’s only original composition on the album, Blues for Duane, which he plays with a Harmon mute. The final track on this short (36 minutes) collection is the ballad The Things We Did Last Summer, beginning with a dreamy little solo passage from Hanna, who later thrums the piano strings under Hubbard’s initial statement of the theme, after which Freddie solos lyrically throughout the tune.

Not only does The Hub of Hubbard feature some dazzling and varied music, it also offers a fascinating glimpse into the last moments of Freddie Hubbard’s bop period.

1. Intro / Clear Way 6:50
2. A Quick Sketch 14:58
3. Recorda Me 11:44
4. You Don’t Know What Love Is 6:28
5. Spiral 17:30
6. Cheryl 12:08
7. Bird 6:03

Performed at Live Under The Sky in July and August 1982, at the Den-en Coliseum and Yomiuriland in Tokyo for broadcast by NHK radio.

Bass – Ron Carter
Drums – Anthony Williams
Piano – Kenny Barron
Tenor Saxophone – Joe Henderson
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard

FREDDIE HUBBARD QUINTET LIVE UNDER THE SKY, TOKYO, 1982 COMPACT DISC

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