A live Freddie Hubbard recording should always really be something of a welcome prospect, which given their limited number makes ‘The Night Of The Cookers’ even more disappointing. A double album of two club night performances of long and extended pieces, we get four tracks all around the twenty-minute mark showcasing a duelling match between trumpet kings Hubbard and Lee Morgan, with support from a mixed band supplying sax and flute, piano, bass, drums and congas. And with one of those players being the excellent James Spaulding, this should have been a classic. Instead it comes nowhere close.
First of all, the recording itself is appalling, sounding badly miked, muddy and quite often nowhere near the instruments. There are some otherwise good solos here that are ruined by the fact that you can’t hear them because the rhythm section is so far in front, that the soloist is completely distant and buried in the mix.
Second is that the long jams that make up the bulk of the music are a chaotic and jangled mess. The full band is often found playing as hard and as much as they can all at the same time, with little in the way of space or breathing room. ‘Pensativa’ is almost a complete waste of time for this very reason, with ‘Walking’ benefitting from a more blues-sounding strut, but is still far from acceptable.
More confusingly and unexpectedly is that the legendary Lee Morgan here sounds completely abysmal and lost, with Hubbard clearly sounding in a different and stronger league. There are a lot of solos on this gig, and most of them are far too stretched out, starting as they do frequently with too little an idea - Morgan in particular is devastatingly uninspired throughout.
‘Jodo’ picks up things with some strong moments and a nice fast paced rhythm, which unfortunately gives way to some appalling conga solos, and leaving it to Hubbard’s own ‘Breaking Point’ to steal the small honour of easily being the best piece here. Melding Spanish-informed music with a calypso feel, it sounds like the band has finally finished rehearsal and is now stepping up to something approaching an A-game. It’s sad then that the sound is still atrocious.
There are some good bits and pieces here and there scattered throughout, but nothing that isn’t available in a much better format, or sound quality, on other more solid releases, for either trumpet stars here. Each also has better live efforts too; in Hubbards excellent ‘Without A Song’ and Morgans definitive three album set ‘Live At The Lighthouse’. Regardless of these though, nothing with this bad a sound recording should ever be put out as an ‘official’ release, and for the price and poor quality of the music in general, this one should without exception be side-stepped and forgotten.