This is perhaps my favorite album by Freddie Hubbard. Red Clay is a classic album that combines blues and bop to create not just an essential Jazz fusion album, but an essential album for all jazz lovers regardless of their love, or lack of love for fusion. The quintet is a absolutely stacked. Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Joe Henderson on saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Lenny White on drums. This album is short, but sweet. A prime example of what jazz fusion can be and a dissertation on writing for small combos.

The album begins with the title track “Red Clay”.  This track is perfectly executed. The intro contains Henderson and Hubbard playing contrasting lines, while Herbie comps, and the drums embellish. The tune begins with Carter playing a melodic bass line while Herbie plays on the hits. The groove is air tight and when Hubbard comes in it just fits perfectly into place. Henderson also is playing and strengthening the melodic line. Hubbard solos first and plays a nice, melodic, bluesy solo. Herbie is very much a part of Hubbard’s solo interacting a playing melodic and rhythmic figures constantly throughout. So much so, that to the untrained ear it may sound like he is soloing, but he is not, he’s just adding his voice into the music.

Herbie solos after Hubbard and plays similarly to Hubbard using lots of bluesy licks and be bop verbiage. After soloing for a while the horns come in and add hits to his solo. It sounds perfect and really rises the energy of the solo. Henderson takes the next solo and Hubbard also adds hits near the end of his solo. They are different from the early hits, but have the same effect. They add energy and a new texture to the solo. Ron Carter solos next and it’s an absolutely joy. He really makes the bass “sing”.  After his solo there is a brief drum solo that brings us back into the head. The head is played again as it was the first time and the song concludes from there.

As usual I will highlight just a few tunes and I will not do a track by track analysis of this album. This is not to shun or overlook any tunes, but just to try and cover the entire album without overwhelming you with information. So with that being said I won’t talk about “Delphia” and will instead focus on “Suite Sioux”. It’s hard to name my favorite tune from this album, but “Suite Sioux” is a strong candidate. Every time I listen to it I hum the melody for the rest of the day annoying all who I come across. That’s the beauty of jazz it’s not just about  burning solos, playing at blazing speeds, or seeing how many crazy chord progressions you can fit in a tune. At the end of the day the hardest thing to do is composing something that will stay with the listener long after you’ve finished playing and this tune accomplishes that for me.

What else could you want from a tune then what “Suite Sioux” gives you? The melody is great, the changes in tempo work to spice up the solos, which by the way, are excellent. I especially like Herbie Hancock’s solo. I don’t believe I have a favorite musician, but the jazz pianist I would most like to emulate would probably be Herbie. After his solo Lenny White takes a solo and brings us back to the head, similar to how he did in the title track “Red Clay”.

“The Intrepid Fox” is one of the standout tracks on this short album combining many of the elements I’ve already discussed to a make this tune a killer. The melody is powerful with Henderson and Hubbard playing in unison, Herbie’s comping is so energetic and rhythmic that it adds to the fast paced energy, and the melody’s running eight note lines that land on theses strong hits make it catchy and memorable like “Suite Sioux” is. Hubbard solos first and plays in that upper register for a large portion of his solo. He sounds so good up there. Very clear and crisp with no squeaking or breaking whatsoever. Henderson follows Hubbard and starts in a lower register than Hubbard did, but he moves around a lot at gives us a variety or ranges in his solo. Herbie solos last and then we are back to the melody. Again, with an album this short and sweet it’s hard to figure out which tune is the best, but you can’t go wrong picking “The Intrepid Fox”.

This album is an absolute joy and what it lacks in length it delivers in quality. a must own for all Jazz aficionados. Get it if it’s not in your possession already. Thanks for reading and check in on the Jazz Loop the day after Christmas. I will be making announcements about what has been accomplished and what changes and improvements you can expect in 2015.


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