Freddie Hubbard’s final album, ‘On The Real Side’, was his first for almost seven years. A prolific and varied career that took in the legendary labels Blue Note and CTI, as well as fellow trumpet player Miles Davis’ home for thirty years,
, Hubbard also played with a list of
people that almost reads as a who’s who of jazz from the sixties through to the
Although less prolific in his recording for the last decade, he continued to play many live dates, even up until his final year. Heartbreakingly though, a number various factors, including ‘partying’, lack of practice and over-exertion, meant that as time progressed, his performances grew increasingly weaker and tired sounding. ‘On The Real Side’ however sounds as though all the stops have been pulled out to make it every bit an as-strong-as-possible swansong.
Granted, he doesn’t possess the fiery, full-ranged ability that he displayed to often fine effect on his defining Blue Note and CTI releases, but his playing is still inspired and passionate, and nowhere does this sound like a man at the end. Seven pieces are here, with six choice tunes appearing from his past, while the title track is a fresh new composition. ‘Sky Dive’ and ‘Take It To The Ozone’ are first rate, while the Latin-sounding ‘
Gibraltar’ is the clear highlight of the set.
The one new track here too is a very soulful side to Hubbard and well worth
hearing on its own.
Regardless of the highs, and they are here in full-force, this isn’t a career best. Hubbard really needs his collaborators on this date, serving for the most part as the main solo or just as the jump-off point for the the rest of the group to come in or hit a groove. His technical skills diminished, he plays shorter phrases through necessity, missing the earlier bravura, and his solos last usually for just a few short choruses. He is however deeply musical and very tuneful throughout, and is still able to show his extraordinary gift for melody. A great artist, his sound is still here, despite the multiple obstacles of his various physical restraints, and it’s a mostly bittersweet joy for any jazz fan.