JJ 07/73: Freddie Hubbard – Sky Dive

Fifty years ago Charles Le Vay thought the trumpeter's second Creed Taylor outing suggested schizophrenia rather than versatility. First published in Jazz Journal July 1973

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I don’t know if the assembly-line tac­tics of the ubiquitous Creed Taylor label are paying off commercially, but judging by the speed with which they’re coming off the conveyor belt, I suppose they are. This is Hubbard’s second album for CTI, with another on the way; once again it shows that he’s never recovered from his years with the Jazz Messengers.

His recent residency at Scott’s had him bopping in old Blakey style, while this album embraces a hotch-potch of music­al contexts, ranging from funk-rock to Beiderbecke to Bossa Nova and back to Blakey – all of which suggests a schizo­phrenic rather than versatile attitude. Sadly, Hubbard is lost in a period he can’t come to terms with, while fellow Messengers have either thrown in their lot, contented themselves with the past, or, like Wayne Shorter, forged way ahead. But that’s another story.

Povo drags a Hubbard composition uneasily into up-dated rock. Introduced by a Gil Evans style spread, Carter opens with a simple bass riff which continues remorselessly through the number’s absurdly drawn-out length. The equally simple melody line covers what is basically a languorous early Shor­ter 12-bar composition; add some names like Cobham, Jarrett and Benson and you’ve got a track which does Creed Taylor proud. These presumably lucra­tively enticed session men are hardly enthusiastic, but at least the ball’s roll­ing.

Cobham does especially well by waking up occasionally to change em­phases and add off-beats, only to be forced back by clumsy bouts of orches­tration. Laws alone is trying, and he provides the only solo of any listenable worth. In his other composition, Sky Dive, a piece of Quincy Jones bossa-funk, Hubbard at least bursts into a healthy and sustained playing, in uncompromised tone, of his original style. The following breaks by Benson and Jarrett are just short enough not to steal the show.

Beiderbecke’s In A Mist makes as few bones about its wallowing Messengers treatment as much as Jarrett and Cobham are unafraid to parody a ten year-old Cedar Walton and Art Blakey back­up – which leaves one wondering idly if Hubbard directed them so, or, if not, whether he was aware of what was go­ing on behind his back. Lastly, yet an­other blood-transfusion of the love theme from The Godfather already again, in which a predictable arrangement and glossy orchestration is spared only by a few neat changes in tempo, a miniscule but authentic Jarrett introduction and a brief spell when Cobham, Jarrett and particularly Carter are permitted a couple of minutes trio work.

I hope Hubbard sorts out a career which can do some sort of justice to his past.

Discography
Povo; In A Mist (19½ min) – The God­father; Sky Dive (15 min)
Freddie Hubbard (tpt): Ron Carter (bs): Billy Cobham (dm); George Benson (gtr); Keith Jarrett (pno/el-pno); Ray Barretto, Airto (perc); Hubert Laws (flt/alt-flt/ten/flt); Alan Rubin, Marvin Stamm (tpt/fgl-hn); Wayne Andre, Garnett Brown (tbn); Paul Faulise (bs-tbn); Tony Price (tuba); Phil Bodner (flt/alt-flt/bs-flt/bs-clt/pclo); George Marge (flt/alt-flt/clt/bs-clt); Wally Kane (bs-clt/ pclo); Romeo Penque (flt/alt-flt/clt/oboe/Eng-hn). 10/72.
(CTI CTL II £2.29)