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Freddie Hubbard - Backlash (1967)


Freddie Hubbard is one of the most influential trumpeters of all time. Known for his fusion and avant grade style of play he gave us a a sense of where jazz music was going. He had elements of the musicians who came before him, I can hear Lee Morgan, Clifford Brown and Louis Armstrong in Freddie Hubbard’s playing. One thing that separates Freddie Hubbard from most musicians is his unique sound and his great compositions. I know immediately when I’m listening to a Freddie Hubbard record and I can recall at least half dozens Freddie Hubbard compositions that are well played Jazz standards. The album I’m reviewing today has a couple of them. With Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, James Spaulding on Sax and flute, Albert Daily on piano, Bob Cunningham on bass, Ray Appleton,and  Ray Barretto on congas there is plenty of talent and creativity in this group and this album. So let’s take a look at the 1967 classic Backlash

The opening track of Backlash is also the title track and wow, it starts of with a bang. A quick drum intro a piano vamp and the horns come in right on que. The song is energetic and has elements of fusion and soul jazz. Freddie Hubbard plays the head with precision, conviction, and accuracy. His solo is just as fierce with lots of melodic development and playing “out”. Following his solo is James Spaulding who follows Hubbard’s style and plays “out” as well picking his spots, playing long tones, and pushing the saxophone to the limit as it screeches in resistance. Albert Daily has a nice piano solo with lots of blues licks in it which fit perfectly with this tune. While his solo is ending the horns come in early and play hits alongside Daily. They come back in with the head and conclude the song.

As usual with most of my reviews I will not discuss every single song on the album. As much as I would like to I think it would begin to be borderline torture if you guys would hear me go in depth on each and every song. So I will go in depth on a couple more and just discuss the rest briefly. If you enjoyed the title track then you will have no problem with “The Return Of The Prodigal Son”. The songs are very similar they have a similar vamp, same elements of soul jazz and fusion, same solo order. Do not overlook this song, it rocks, it swing. Following “The Return Of The Prodigal Son” we get another Freddie Hubbard composition and a jazz standard “Little Sunflower”.

I love so many things about “LittleSunflower” first of all it blends so well into this album. After two high energy tracks the juxtaposition of “Little Sunflower” is very much needed. Also, as a jazz pianist, it’s great hearing the simple, evenly balanced voicings Daily uses. He interacts with the melody, adds to the harmony, but stay out of the way. I love latin jazz and this is a great example of good latin jazz music. And finally the use of the flute which is not a typical jazz instruments just adds another interesting element to this  song.

The flute and horn play the melody in unison and are perfectly in sync together. Spaulding begins the solos with a great solo on the flute. He leaves lots of space which the rhythm section fills in with rhythmic comping.This is a great example of every one in the group adding to the overall sound. It’s not just a rhythm section that is simply playing the changes. They are listening and responding to what is going on. The section is living and breathing. Hubbard continues with his solo doing a lot of the same things Spaulding did, leaving space and taking his time. He is not rushing through the song he’s using his notes economically and efficiently. Next is Daily whose solo I just love. He builds melodic ideas and has a wonderful vamp that he just sits on it for a while and it sounds great. One person I haven’t mentioned who I probably should have already is Ray Barrletto. He does a great job on the congas not just in keeping time, but as I said earlier, he is listening and interacting with the musicians. You can tell he is experienced. You can tell he is listening. Same with Ray Appleton the other tunes. Both are not just time keepers but active and integral members of the groups style and sound.

Following “Little Sunflower” is another Hubbard composition “On The Que-Tee”  which is not necessarily a standard but a great song as well. Lots of energy, a great head, lots of hits.  Following “On The Que Tee is another jazz standard written by Hubbard “Up Jumped Spring”. “Up Jumped Spring” is another interesting composition with a lot of different elements. Again flute is involved, this piece is also uptempo, and a 3/4 waltz. Once again this shows that Hubbard has no limitations and shows his diversity in the styles he utilizes in his compositions. “Up Jumped Spring”is a classic tune with a memorable head, great solos by all musicians, and is still played today. It’s kind of an unwritten rule for the average jazz musician, you have to know how to play “Up Jumped Spring”.

The album concludes on a “Echoes of Blue” which is probably the most obscure song on the album. It contains elements of the blues and has a free jazz feel to it even though it does have a structured melody. If you listen to the solos you will hear what I mean. Hubbard is loud and stretching the boundaries of what we are use to hearing over this harmony. Again, another flute solo by Spaulding and Daily continues with the free jazz feel on his piano solo. We also have a bass solo by Cunningham on this record which is a rare treat on this album. During the bass solo you also hear someone talking over the solos kind of shouting or grunting. This actually matches the style of music we are listening to so in a odd way its quite fitting. The album concludes with Hubbard flailing away as the piano comps until the tune and the album end. (source)

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