Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay. CTI 6001, 1970
Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life. CTI 6007, 1970
Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard kicked off the 1970s with two of the earliest electrified jazz recordings from outside the stable of Miles. On Red Clay, he’s backed by the nimble chops of Joe Henderson (woodwinds), Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Ron Carter (bass) and Lenny White (drums) for a tuneful collection boasting four originals, plus an instrumental adaptation of “Cold Turkey” by John Lennon.
Amongst the album’s highlights is the title-excursion “Red Clay”, marked by a memorable bass ostinato which drives the heady trade-offs between Hubbard, Henderson and Hancock. Gusty winds ensnarl “The Intrepid Fox”, where fleeting melodies are ransacked across great length by that hyperactive trio of soloists. A nightcap is served in the dusky Rhodes glimmer of “Suite Sioux”, which frames a truce between sax and trumpet – like harmony at last call.
The crimson-themed cover art of Red Clay is continued on the follow-up, Straight Life, despite a shift in musical concept. The focus here is on jam-based, conga-strewn improve, of which the mangled sax and glowing keys of “Mr. Clean” emerge most gloriously from this three-track set. The tingling Rhodes of Hancock are the saving grace to the sprawling title-piece, yet even he seems impassive here, as if his energies were now on reserve for his own, superior efforts. The allure of Red Clay was it’s melding of tunefulness and intrepidness, a balance sorely lacking this second time around.
Amplified instruments demand knowledge of their unique sonic character. Following the initial guidance of Hancock, the challenge now for Hubbard was to forge an electrified strategy – to stay the course of this new frontier in jazz.