In general Freddie Hubbard's Columbia recordings can be skipped by serious jazz fans because, with the exception of Super Blue and to a lesser extent this album, they are overtly commercial and rather insincere efforts. This particular record at least uses the trumpeter's regular quintet of the period (with Hadley Caliman on tenor and flute, the up-and-coming keyboardist Billy Childs, bassist Larry Klein and drummer Carl Burnett) although the title cut has three guests (including keyboardist George Duke) whose role seemed to be to make the music more funky. With the exception of the standard "Theme from Summer of '42," none of the other songs (all group originals) caught on but Hubbard takes some good solos during these modern mainstream performances.
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. However, a string of blatantly commercial albums later in the decade damaged his reputation and, just when Hubbard, in the early '90s (with the deaths of Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis), seemed perfectly suited for the role of veteran master, his chops started causing him serious troubles.
This well-recorded outing (which has been reissued on CD by Drive Archive) was trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's first worthwhile studio recording (with the exception of Super Blue) since the mid-'70s. Essentially a bebop date, Hubbard is teamed with a sextet comprised of altoist Richie Cole, trombonist Ashley Alexander, pianist George Cables, bassist Andy Simpkins and drummer John Dentz; altoist Med Flory sits in on "Byrdlike." Hubbard shows on such standards as "Shaw Nuff," "Star Eyes" and "Lover Man" that he could still play straightahead jazz with the best of them, Alexander is featured on "Stella by Starlight" and Cole is also in excellent form.
This collection on the U.K.'s Soul Brother imprint is a very compelling look at a big slice of Freddie Hubbard's long career as a leader, and one that gets ignored for the most part. Hubbard recorded over 20 records between Backlash, his Atlantic debut in 1966, and Ride Like the Wind for Elektra in 1982, with lengthy stops at Columbia and CTI (as well some straight hard bop and post-bop outings for labels Fantasy and Pablo). In many cases, some of these original recordings were not only disregarded by more traditional jazzheads, they were regarded with outright hostility. It didn't matter to Hubbard, however, because at the time, these were among his best-selling albums and connected with the public deeply.