Happy 45th Anniversary to Freddie Hubbards Red Clay, originally recorded January 29, 1970.
While there are certainly prime examples of pop/rock artists who have defined their careers through continual reinvention (think Bowie, Prince, Madonna to name a few), no musical genre has been driven more profoundly by perpetual change than jazz. Ellington, Davis, Coltrane, Monk, Mingus, Coleman, Rollins, Hancock just the most notable handful of artists among many others who have preserved the vitality of jazz through an undying commitment to constant sonic adventurism and innovation. The late Horace Silver, one of the greatest pianists ever to grace the keys, once explained that when honing their craft, he and his jazz peers open our minds, stretch forth, take chances and venture out musically to try and arrive at something new and different.
And amen to that. Indeed, my own ever-maturing reverence for and love of jazz music continues to intensify with each new record I discover, largely due to the genres rich history of challenging the status quo, defying conventions and pushing musical boundaries. Which is why trumpeter Freddie Hubbards string of early 1970s LPs, beginning with 1970s phenomenal Red Clay, have resonated so profoundly with me. As the 1960s concluded, Hubbard had already earned household name status within jazz circles, following a prolific ten-year recording run for Blue Note and Atlantic Records that included classic works like Open Sesame, Ready for Freddie and Backlash. In retrospect, the title of 1969s A Soul Experiment seemed to portend Hubbards already-evolving sound that would take greater form throughout the subsequent decade.
The tipping point of Hubbards creative transformation is arguably Red Clay, the first LP he recorded for CTI Records. Recorded in a whirlwind 3-day session at the legendary Van Gelder Studio, the album is fueled by Hubbards bold experimentation centered around the spirited fusion of hard bop, soul jazz, and even the 4/4 rhythm structures most commonly associated with rock music. Supported by a dream team of collaborators that include Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone, flute), Herbie Hancock (electric piano, organ), Ron Carter (bass, electric bass), and Lenny White (drums), Red Clays inspired, sprawling grooves are nothing short of wonderful to behold. Hubbards masterful trumpet play is the predominant force throughout the compositions, but each band member also commands a solid portion of the spotlight with their respective contributions, with Hancocks exquisite tinkling of the Rhodes keys and Whites syncopated percussion particularly deserving of praise.
Each of the four core compositions on offer here make for highly recommended listening. And if you listen closely enough, you might even recognize a few songs that have been sampled by early-to-mid-1990s hip-hop fare, providing further testament to the albums continued relevance and staying power throughout the years. The title track can be heard interspersed throughout Freestyle Fellowships Park Bench People and José James more recent (and lovely) cover version. Suite Sioux was lifted by A Tribe Called Quest for their Jazz (Weve Got) (Re-Recording). Cover versions of the title track most notably Jack Wilkins 1973 rendition have also been sampled by a handful of artists. Select editions of the LP include a special bonus track, Hubbard and crews intriguing re-interpretation of Cold Turkey, originally recorded by John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. More recent CD reissues include an additional bonus song, a stellar 1971 live performance of the title track by a modified group that features Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone), Johnny Hammond Smith (electric piano, organ), George Benson (guitar), Billy Cobham (drums) and Airto Moreira (percussion), in addition to original member Carter.
A veritable feast for the ears, Red Clay is an excellent showcase of Hubbards legacy of progression as a composer and an LP that warrants recognition as one of the very finest jazz recordings of the 1970s, or any decade for that matter.
My Favorite Song: Suite Sioux
BUY – Freddie Hubbard – Red ClayStream Here: