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[Off The Record]
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Freddie Hubbard/Jimmy Heath
(Label M)

Producer Joel Dorn has long sought to capture the elusive sound of being there, and this time out he catches a hot one indeed. This 1965 Hubbard/Heath date is the first of Dorn’s Label M series culled from the tapes of Baltimore’s Left Bank Jazz Society, which were recorded at its Sunday-afternoon jam sessions in the ’60s and ’70s (other titles include Sonny Stitt, Stan Getz, and a ’67 Hubbard session).

If the audience in " live " recordings is often superfluous, here it’s part of the action. For an informal recording, the mix is unusually warm, Hubbard’s trumpet in particular snuggling right up against your ear on ballads. In upper registers and at full volume there’s even a bit of crackling distortion. No matter, every note has presence (as opposed to the off-mike muffles of most amateur live recordings), and the audience is crackling too, its own noise and spontaneous collective whoops of enthusiasm directed at the bandstand.

And you can hear the musicians respond. They enter at a full gallop, trading fours almost immediately on Heath’s bopping, bluesy " All Members " (the theme itself not appearing until a full three minutes in). " What Is This Thing Called Love " is taken at its usual jazz tempo — way up! — but Hubbard responds with his most controlled, fierce performance, all rippling, perfectly articulated ornaments and driving turn-arounds. Heath emerges as one of the great, undersung talents, taking Johnny Griffin–like double-time speed runs, or bursting into Coltrane spiritual possession, his glottal, arpeggiated clusters the musical equivalent of speaking in tongues. On this night, Heath wasn’t the only one feeling the spirit.


Issue Date: April 5 - 11, 2001

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