[Review] Freddie Hubbard: Open Sesame (1960)

The debut album from the man most likely to inherit the golden horn after Miles Davis.

Kronomyth 1.0: A talent worth trumpeting.

Freddie Hubbard’s first album as a leader quickly established him as one of the most exciting horn players on the scene. His ability to sustain rapid-fire solos for long periods of time is like watching a young pitcher throw 100 mph heat, only much more swinging ensues in the case of Hubbard. Mixing bebop and hard bop, Open Sesame has something for everyone: speed, soul, melody and even a little mayhem. Tina Brooks contributes two originals to the session, while Sam Jones and Clifford Jarvis contribute some of the best rhythm support I’ve heard in a long time.

The Brooks originals are, in my opinion, the album’s crown jewels. Both Open Sesame and Gypsy Blue feature Latin rhythms and memorable melodies that stay with you long after the album is over. (The expanded CD reissue presents alternate takes of both tracks that are similar to what ended up on the original elpee.) Hubbard and Brooks complement one another nicely, occasionally playing harmony to give the melodies a richer dimension. Hubbard is an extroverted soloist, Brooks more introverted, yet both seem to arrive at the same place on their solos. Only McCoy Tyner, who seems criminally quiet on this session, uncovers new avenues in his solos. In fact, Tyner is the only one to make sense out of the “melody” on Hub’s Nub.

Another highlight on Open Sesame is the quintet’s cover of the Burke/Van Heusen classic, But Beautiful. Here, Hubbard’s horn take the place of the voice and the arrangement provides a calm oasis between the two spicy originals. All or Nothing at All comes in swinging, and the group’s take on The Clovers’ One Mint Julep is a cool jazz number that reminds me of Herbie Hancock’s R&B-influenced songs (e.g., “Watermelon Man”). Although it’s not the best Rudy Van Gelder recording I’ve heard by a longshot, the fadeouts that appear on the some of the songs (e.g., “One Mint Julep,” “Hub’s Nub”) are appreciably original.

Several days after this session, Brooks and Hubbard paired up again (with Sam Jones) on True Blue. Both albums reveal a talented composer whose career was cut too short. Tyner, of course, would go on to great things as part of John Coltrane’s band. As for Jones and Jarvis, I can’t believe this is the first time I’m hearing them play together. Their performance on Open Sesame is a textbook example of what a swinging rhythm section should sound like. And Hubbard? Well, all doors would soon be open to him.

Original elpee version

A1. Open Sesame (Tina Brooks) (7:08)
A2. But Beautiful (Johnny Burke/Jimmy Van Heusen) (6:23)
A3. Gypsy Blue (Tina Brooks) (6:24)
B1. All or Nothing at All (Jack Lawrence/Arthur Alterman) (5:35)
B2. One Mint Julep (Rudolph Toombs) (6:04)
B3. Hub’s Nub (Freddie Hubbard) (6:56)

CD reissue bonus tracks
7. Open Sesame (alternate take) (Tina Brooks) (7:14)
8. Gypsy Blue (alternate take) (Tina Brooks) (7:35)

The Players

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Tina Brooks (tenor sax), Clifford Jarvis (drums), Sam Jones (bass), McCoy Tyner (piano). Recording by Rudy Van Gelder.

The Pictures

Cover photo by Francis Wolff. Cover design by Reid Miles.

The Plastic

Released on elpee in 1960 in the US (Blue Note, BN-4040).

  1. Re-issued on elpee in Japan (Blue Note/King, GXK 8022).
  2. Re-issued on elpee in January 1984 in Japan (Blue Note/Toshiba, BNJ-71013).
  3. Re-issued on elpee in 1989 in the US (Blue Note/Capitol, B1-84040).
  4. Re-issued on compact disc in September 1992 in Japan (Blue Note/Toshiba, BN-4040).
  5. Re-released on expanded, remastered compact disc in 2002 in the US (Blue Note/Capitol, 95341-2) with 2 bonus tracks.
  6. Re-packaged with Goin’ Up, Ready for Freddie and Hub-Tones on 4-for-1 2CD in 2017 (Avid).
  7. Re-packaged with Goin’ Up, Hub Cap, Ready for Freddie and Hub-Tones on 5CD box set in 2018 in Europe (Blue Note/Universal).
  8. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee in 2019 in the US (Blue Note, BST 84040).
  9. Re-issued on 180g vinyl elpee in 2020 in Europe (Ermitage, VNL 12515 LP) with unique cover.

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