Freddie Hubbard – Polar AC

We’re big fans of Hubbard’s CTI material around here and this album has a lot of the qualities we love about this stuff. All the usual faces are here — Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, George Benson, Airto — and Rudy Van Gelder does a great job capturing their performances.

We used to criticize RVG pretty harshly, but in recent years we’ve found more and more pressings of his stuff that really work.

Side One

A++, clean and clear, punchy and lively. Most copies fail in one of two ways. Either they’re smeary and veiled, or they’re thin and harsh, but this side has no such problems! There’s plenty of richness and sweetness, but there’s also real bite to the brass. So good!

Side Two

A++ again, lively and dynamic with excellent presence and a strong bottom end. Like side one, the balance between transparency and richness is just right here.

We Love CTI

We’ve been really digging this CTI jazz stuff lately. On the better albums such as this one, the players tend to sound carefree and loose — you can tell they are having a heck of a time with the material. Don’t get me wrong — we still love the Blue Note and Contemporary label stuff for our more “serious” jazz needs, but it’s a kick to hear top jazz musicians laying down the grooves and not taking themselves so seriously… especially when it sounds this good!

All Music Guide Bio

One of the great jazz trumpeters of all time, Freddie Hubbard formed his sound out of the Clifford Brown/Lee Morgan tradition, and by the early ’70s was immediately distinctive and the pacesetter in jazz.

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Hubbard played early on with Wes and Monk Montgomery. He moved to New York in 1958, roomed with Eric Dolphy (with whom he recorded in 1960), and was in the groups of Philly Joe Jones (1958-1959), Sonny Rollins, Slide Hampton, and J.J. Johnson, before touring Europe with Quincy Jones (1960-1961). He recorded with John Coltrane, participated in Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (1960), was on Oliver Nelson’s classic Blues and the Abstract Truth album (highlighted by “Stolen Moments”), and started recording as a leader for Blue Note that same year.

Hubbard gained fame playing with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers (1961-1964) next to Wayne Shorter and Curtis Fuller. He recorded Ascension with Coltrane (1965), Out to Lunch (1964) with Eric Dolphy, and Maiden Voyage with Herbie Hancock, and, after a period with Max Roach (1965-1966), he led his own quintet, which at the time usually featured altoist James Spaulding. A blazing trumpeter with a beautiful tone on flügelhorn, Hubbard fared well in freer settings but was always essentially a hard bop stylist.

In 1970, Freddie Hubbard recorded two of his finest albums (Red Clay and Straight Life) for CTI. The follow-up, First Light (1971), was actually his most popular date, featuring Don Sebesky arrangements. But after the glory of the CTI years (during which producer Creed Taylor did an expert job of balancing the artistic with the accessible), Hubbard made the mistake of signing with Columbia and recording one dud after another; Windjammer (1976) and Splash (a slightly later effort for Fantasy) are low points.

However, in 1977, he toured with Herbie Hancock’s acoustic V.S.O.P. Quintet and, in the 1980s, on recordings for Pablo, Blue Note, and Atlantic, he showed that he could reach his former heights (even if much of the jazz world had given up on him).


Side One

Polar AC 
People Make the World Go Round 
Betcha by Golly, Wow

Side Two

Son of Sky Dive

AMG Review

Hubbard, backed on four of the five songs by a string section arranged by either Don Sebesky or Bob James, is assisted on songs such as “People Make the World Go Round” and “Betcha By Golly, Wow” by flutist Hubert Laws and guitarist George Benson. “Son of Sky Dive” showcases his trumpet with a sextet including Laws and tenor-saxophonist Junior Cook. The music is enjoyable…