Freddie and Me

Freddie Hubbard, 1938 – 2008

Rochester, NY – 1976 (Image: Tom Marcello)

Freddie Hubbard – Keep Your Soul Together (Excerpt)
From Keep Your Soul Together: CTI [Buy]

There was a time when I didn’t know who Freddie Hubbard was.

I was just starting to learn about jazz. A friend’s father (himself a well-known pianist and jazz broadcaster around town) thrust two dusty cassettes into my hand, which I duly took home and thrashed to death in my bedroom.

One tape was a copy of Miles’ Someday My Prince Will Come. The other was Herbie Hancock’s Empyrean Isles. The Herbie tape had a hastily scribbled playlist and personnel listing: Herbie… Ron … Tony… Freddie. Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, I’d heard of. But this Freddie guy… playing the … cornet?

Pretty soon Freddie Hubbard was a familiar sound in my house. His solos from that album – on One Finger Snap, Oliliquy Valley – were melodies I could sing in the shower. At that time, all trumpet players sounded fresh and exciting to me. Lee Morgan, Wynton Marsalis, Clifford Brown were all early additions to a small trove of cassettes that filled the family home with sound on evenings and weekends and annoyed my sister in her room down the hallway.  Freddie, with his loud-high hard bop style, probably annoyed her more than most.

At university we formed little jazz bands that played cafés around town. Somehow we managed to persuade the owners that we were actually good, and sometimes the owners even paid us.  By that time, we had discovered Freddie’s early 1970s recordings for CTI, and Red Clay inevitably ended up on our setlist.   We played it EVERY gig. Along with Chameleon, Wayne Shorter’s Footprints and a couple of Cole Porter ballads.

And then one January day, one of the band was killed in an accident. He was the youngest of us. Hell, the oldest of us was only 23.  We put together a band that played at his funeral.  Stevie arrived there before us, and we did our soundcheck next to his coffin. We played four songs before the start of the service. One of them was Red Clay.

Now Freddie Hubbard’s gone too, to join the ever-expanding jam session in the sky.  Through his most powerful recorded work (from, say, 1961 to 1975) many of his phrases have spun themselves into the DNA of all young jazz trumpet players today.  I never got to see him play live, but more than most trumpeters, it felt like I knew him a little bit through his records and the way they influenced me and my bandmates.   So, thanks, Freddie.  We’ll remember you.


I hope we never forget how great music can be… here’s Herbie Hancock and The Headhunters playing Chameleon in a live TV performance from 1974/75…

The video starts at the end of the head/main theme, and goes through the solo section to the end.

In addition to perfect mid-70s hair, Herbie Hancock has the perfect mid-70s keyboard rig… Fender Rhodes Suitcase electric piano (with those gorgeous twin speakers), with a Hohner Clavinet on top. On Herbie’s left is his ARP Odyssey Mk 1 synth and on his right he’s got an ARP 2600 – the same instrument used to create the voice of R2D2 in Star Wars.

ARP 2600

This how you rolled in the days before digital and in 1975, Herbie was right at the cutting edge of musical electronics. Drop in at 4’50 for Herbie’s Odyssey solo. It’s totally for the win, especially his dance at 6’38.

Paul Jackson‘s rubber fingers are on bass. Mike Clark (the funkiest white drummer ever?) drops snare hits where you least expect them. Bill Summers is nailing it on pandeiro during Herbie’s Rhodes solo, and Bennie Maupin is on tenor saxophone and percussion.

Approximately 575 million high school jazz bands have murdered this song over the past 30-odd years, (and I’m as guilty as the next guy), so it’s nice to be reminded how it’s supposed to be done. I could watch this repeatedly, all night.

A pretty good mid-1980s version of Chameleon by Herbie and the Rockit Band is also on YouTube (ignore the annoying visuals and listen to the music):

Rhodes, Wrapped

Donald Byrd – Perpetual Love
From Kofi : Blue Note [Buy]

Normally, emotional attachment to physical possessions is best avoided. Except affection for teddy bears and music collections. But there was a twinge of regret today as I wrapped up my Fender Rhodes Mk 1 Stage 73 to be shipped to its new owner. A Rhodes is a heavy awkward object to transport, and with the amount of travelling coming up in the next 12 months, keeping it really wasn’t a practical option. So I sold it.

Indeed, in a 21st century of brilliant Korgs with stunning digital sound patches, there is virtually nothing practical about owning a Rhodes. It’s like owning a pet. Rhodes are temperamental beasts, requiring re-tuning and a little tender loving care now and again. They’re a bitch to take to gigs, and there’s always one note that sounds just a little bit broken. (With mine, it was the middle C#)

But a Rhodes will always look great in the lounge, and SOUND even greater- like licking meltwater from a velvet glacier while fanned by the wings of angels.

So much of the music I love was performed on a Rhodes. While I was packing it up today, in between berating myself for my stupidity, I tried to think of my personal favourite Rhodes jazz performances – which are less about improvisational brilliance than simply how the keyboard sounds. Here’s a list of three:

– Keith Jarrett’s 1971 “broken key” solo on Funky Tonk (Miles Davis Live-Evil)
– Herbie Hancock’s live version of Butterfly in Japan, 1975 (Flood: Live in Tokyo)
– Duke Pearson’s playing on Perpetual Love in 1970 (Donald Byrd Kofi)

I’ve shared Perpetual Love because it’s probably less well-known, although the players on the session are top notch: Donald Byrd (tp), Frank Foster (ts), Duke Pearson (Rhodes), Wally Richardson (g), Ron Carter (b), Mickey Roker (d), Airto and Dom Um Ramao (perc).


Hung Up in Tokyo…again

Among Herbie Hancock’s Japan-only releases from the 1970s, Directstep seems to be the hardest to get your hands on, even in Japan. I can’t find it for sale online at all (Amazon says it’s “currently unavailable”). I stumbled on my CD copy in Fnac Mulhouse (France) about four years ago, which proves that you never know where rarities will turn up.

Directstep was recorded in October 1978 at CBS/Sony Studios in Tokyo. Personnel are Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Webster Lewis (organ), Alphonse Mouzon (dr), Paul Jackson (b), Ray Obiedo (gt), Bennie Maupin (ts), Bill Summers (perc). And despite the fact it was 1978, the album is surprisingly listenable…

Herbie Hancock – Shiftless Shuffle
From Directstep: Sony Records SCRCS 9503 [OOP]

Alphonse Mouzon
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Hung Up in Tokyo

In June 1975, Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters travelled to Japan. Their concerts at Shibuya Konkaido and Nakano Sun Plaza were recorded by Columbia Japan, and subsequently released as the twin-vinyl Japan-only live LP Flood:Live in Japan.

Just one track today, because it’s nearly 20 minutes long, and comes with a 100% “This Will Funk Your World” Guarantee. Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Bennie Maupin (soprano sax), Blackbyrd McKnight (gt), Paul Jackson (b), Mike Clark (d), Bill Summers (perc).

Herbie Hancock – Hang Up Your Hang Ups (Live) – 19’54
From 洪水 Live In Japan: Columbia SCRS 9341 [Buy]

Merci à Dom chez PODvains pour son review de mon blog, meme si ma contribution au blogosphere n’est que modeste et flambante anglosaxonne – ” le néo-zélandais de la bande qui cause français” Haha, c’est trop gentil..

And hello to Siggidóri at Skonrokk, who linked to etnobofin in Icelandic, and describes the contents as “Óhætt að mæla með þeirri eðal músík”. Skonrokk on ice is well worth a visit for some surprising music from Iceland – Reyjavik is very definitely in the house!