Tuesday, November 27, 2012

RED CLAY by Freddie Hubbard, classic album review by Chuck Joy





          I love many musics. Some musics, like Hindu music, seem exotic. Some musics, like European, seem dense. Some musics, I was there near their beginning, like rock. Some musics were there near the beginning of me, like jazz. I believe I was conceived to the music of a big band record playing on a phonograph.

          I became aware of Freddie Hubbard music in 1970, with Red Clay, toward the early middle of Freddie Hubbard’s brilliant career. In those years I was a regular to the jazz clubs of Manhattan, especially the Village Vanguard. I would step under the awning and down those stairs to that vivid room, with John or Jane or Dennis visiting from Erie. We were all very advanced what with the drinking age 18. We could down at least the required number of whiskey-and-waters before finding the D train for the long ride north.

          In those years Freddie Hubbard began recording for Creed Taylor, Hubbard one of a number of genius players turning out beautiful records like Red Clay. In those years I found instrumental music perfect for typing. I’d drop Red Clay with a stack of other records, Equinox, Maiden Voyage, Follow Your Heart, on the player next to my desk while I worked to turn a hand-written draft into a darn good college paper. I wish I could retrieve even one of the papers typed to that music.

          I have the album, Red Clay. I believe Red Clay to be available as a CD, with bonus tracks, and of course you can sample Freddie Hubbard right now, even with video. Go ahead. I can wait. We can listen together.

          Red Clay opens with Red Clay, side 1, track 1. That’s Hubbard, on trumpet. That electric piano? Herbie Hancock. Ron Carter, bass. Lenny White, drums. Some albums start strong, like Red Clay, the opening trumpet solo very strong, yet temperate, with a touch of blues, Hancock’s keyboard lead congruent, and articulate, a sax next, Joe Henderson, coming from that same groove, getting ecstatic, the trumpet screaming along. A melodic bass lead, only a few bars of drums, then the return of the theme, end. I’ve written a poem as tribute to this song, Red Clay.

          Track 2, Delphia. Starts as a ballad, smooth like the sky above Manhattan, picks up gospel speed, drifts back, picks up, Fred and Herb sharing the lead, especially the gospel parts, a couple of choir boys after church robes flying as they run down the court, passing the basketball. End side 1.

          Side 2, Suite Sioux. Another gospel blues beauty, tinged with bebop. Freddie just blows, chorus after chorus, through a tempo change or two, Lenny White picking up before Joe Henderson steps up, Hancock backing them up, Carter plunking away, his paws like a cat’s, a blue cat, a blue cat in a black hat, Hancock carrying a lead, then a way bigger solo from drummer Lenny White, Fred and Herb bringing us home with a reprise of the complex opening statement.

          Last track, The Intrepid Fox. Fasten your seatbelt, we’re taking a ride, West Side Highway, this fox is loose in the city, maybe New Jersey, poor New Jersey, streetlights flashing on the concrete of the Turnpike, industrial sites with big cranes out there in the darkness, a thrilling future in East Orange or Newark, ladies in cotton dresses, a table groaning with chicken wings and bowls of pasta. Freddie, Joe, and Herbie take their last turns on stage. Album sides are short.


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