Thursday, March 10, 2016

Freddie Hubbard - 1970 [1987] "Red Clay"

Red Clay is a soul/funk-influenced hard bop album recorded in 1970 by jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard. It was his first album released on Creed Taylor's CTI label and marked a shift away from Hubbard's long time recording affair with Blue Note Records and another shift toward the soul-jazz fusion sounds that would dominate his recordings in the later part of the decade. It was the album that established Taylor's vision for the music that was to appear on his labels in the coming decade. This is also Freddie Hubbard's seventeenth overall album.

This may be Freddie Hubbard's finest moment as a leader, in that it embodies and utilizes all of his strengths as a composer, soloist, and frontman. On Red Clay, Hubbard combines hard bop's glorious blues-out past with the soulful innovations of mainstream jazz in the 1960s, and reads them through the chunky groove innovations of '70s jazz fusion. This session places the trumpeter in the company of giants such as tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, pianist Herbie Hancock, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Lenny White. Hubbard's five compositions all come from deep inside blues territory; these shaded notions are grafted onto funky hard bop melodies worthy of Horace Silver's finest tunes, and are layered inside the smoothed-over cadences of shimmering, steaming soul. The 12-minute-plus title track features a 4/4 modal opening and a spare electric piano solo woven through the twin horns of Hubbard and Henderson. It is a fine example of snaky groove music. Henderson even takes his solo outside a bit without ever moving out of the rhythmatist's pocket. "Delphia" begins as a ballad with slow, clipped trumpet lines against a major-key background, and opens onto a midtempo groover, then winds back into the dark, steamy heart of bluesy melodicism. The hands-down favorite here, though, is "The Intrepid Fox," with its Miles-like opening of knotty changes and shifting modes, that are all rooted in bop's muscular architecture. It's White and Hancock who shift the track from underneath with large sevenths and triple-timed drums that land deeply inside the clamoring, ever-present riff. Where Hubbard and Henderson are playing against, as well as with one another, the rhythm section, lifted buoyantly by Carter's bridge-building bassline, carries the melody over until Hancock plays an uncharacteristically angular solo before splitting the groove in two and doubling back with a series of striking arpeggios. This is a classic, hands down. 

On Jan. 27, 1970, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, playing at the peak of his powers after a string of seven brilliant Blue Note albums and three for the Atlantic label, went into the studio to cut his first for Creed Taylor’s CTI label. With Taylor producing, a stellar cast was assembled at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., for three consecutive days of recording. They emerged with Red Clay, an album that would not only define Hubbard’s direction over the next decade while setting the template for all future CTI recordings, but would also have a dramatic impact on a generation of trumpet players coming up in the ’70s.
It was a transitional period in the jazz; the tectonic shift beginning with Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way, recorded the previous year. Hubbard’s entry into this crossover territory on Red Clay was characterized by the slyly syncopated beats of drummer Lenny White on the funky 12-minute title track, an infectious groover that was soon covered by budding crossover groups all over America. Essentially an inventive line set to the chord changes of “Sunny,” Bobby Hebb’s hit song from 1966, “Red Clay” would become Hubbard’s signature tune throughout his career. As trumpeter, friend and benefactor David Weiss, who is credited with bringing Hubbard out of self-imposed retirement in the late ’90s, explains, “Later in life Freddie would always announce it as ‘the tune that’s been keeping me alive for the last 30 years.’ We played ‘Red Clay’ every night and he would quote ‘Sunny’ over it every night.”

Like Stanley Turrentine, Freddie Hubbard's best work was always in the service of others until he signed with Creed Taylor's CTI label. He then released a trio of albums that represents his crowning achievement as a leader. Red Clay finds him in the company of Herbie Hancock, who played a large part in defining jazz fusion, as well as heavyweights like Ron Carter, Joe Henderson, and Lenny White. The title track kicks off the record with a funky groove that is much more memorable than any such trick attempted on Blue Note releases from the previous decade; the remaining tracks are fairly adventurous explorations of a variety of interesting themes. Hancock, whose electric piano is one of the guilty pleasures of the area, carries the day with funky vamping and tasteful soloing. But Hubbard is no slouch either, contributing some of his most memorable solos over the jazzy grooves. Henderson has smoothed out his previous sound, eliminating the stuttering and wailing that defined his style in the sixties. Simply put, Red Clay is one of the relatively few jazz masterpieces from the seventies.

Track listing

01    "Red Clay" - 12:11
02    "Delphia" - 7:23
03    "Suite Sioux" - 8:38
04    "The Intrepid Fox" - 10:45
05    "Cold Turkey" (Lennon) - 10:27
06    "Red Clay" [live] - 18:44 Bonus track on the 2002 & 2010 CD release

    All compositions by Freddie Hubbard except as indicated

        Recorded at Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, January 27, 28 & 29, 1970 except track 6 recorded live at the Southgate Palace on July 19, 1971


    Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
    Joe Henderson - tenor saxophone, flute
    Herbie Hancock - electric piano, organ
    Ron Carter - bass, electric bass
    Lenny White - drums

Track 6 Personnel

    Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
    Stanley Turrentine - tenor saxophone
    Johnny "Hammond" Smith - organ/electric piano
    George Benson - guitar
    Ron Carter - bass
    Billy Cobham - drums
    Airto Moreira - percussion



  2. Just discovered the blog. Even though I know this by heart, just wanted to say thanks for putting it here, because it's such an awesome album. Keep doing the good stuff!!!!

  3. Thanks!! Amazing album.

  4. Thank you very much! Amazing album.

  5. Thanks!!! Amazing album.