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Lost on the shelves: Freddie Hubbard – Life Flight 

January 2, 2017

I was filing LPs today (about as productive as one should be on the New Year’s holiday) and I came across this release from 1987. I did not buy the LP at the time, but picked it up used within the last year for $3.00.  Freddie is hit and miss. It is rarely his playing, but his choices.  He is a great player (Hubbard is one of the great jazz trumpet technicians, but at this point in his career he was unfortunately overshadowed by Wynton Marsalis), but he is prone to releasing some real crap bordering on the dreaded smooth jazz (which is not jazz at all, but audio wallpaper at best). I don’t mind commercial jazz if it is done well, unfortunately it is often schmaltzy.

This LP is a side of commercial jazz (side 1) that is well done (not schmaltzy) and a side (side 2) of some great hard bop. Let’s turn to the late great Leonard Feather (long time jazz writer from the LA Times) who can say it better than I ever could:

In this Janus-faced album, Side 1 is another “Let’s get Freddie to do something commercial” venture. He has been that route (and abandoned it) several times before, but on this occasion, with George Benson and Stanley Turrentine as guests, it comes off inoffensively. Side 2, with the trumpeter leading a straight-ahead quintet in two of his own works, achieves a splendid level of Hubbard heat in the title tune; after the placebo of Side 1, it’s potent medicine. 3 1/2 stars.

This LP sounds gorgeous. It is on Blue Note from an era when the labels had deep pockets and spared no expense to achieve top-notch production values. It was produced by Michael Cuscuna – one of the greatest jazz producers of all time.  It is a Direct Metal Mastering release on audiophile vinyl (in 1987 vinyl was fighting what looked like a loosing battle with CDs – look who got the last laugh on that one).

This is well worth it for side two alone and the overall sonic majesty of the recording.

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