[Review] Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay (1970)

Jazz played with humor, humanity and one helluva backing band.

Kronomyth 14.0: Clay pigeons

This is generally regarded as one of Freddie Hubbard’s finest works, period. The first of several albums recorded for Creed Taylor’s CTI label, Red Clay finds Hubbard leading an all-star cast of Herbie Hancock on electric keyboards, Joe Henderson on tenor sax, Ron Carter on bass and a young Lenny White on drums. On any given day, those five could trot out “Mary Had A Little Lamb” (or John Lennon’s “Cold Turkey” in this case) and make it sound like magic.

As a rule, the trumpet lends itself to showmanship more than, say, the saxophone, and Hubbard puts on a terrific show for the opening “Red Clay,” revealing his mischievous and humorous side to great effect. The title track also sets into motion the bluesy, soulful sound that pervades the album. Hubbard isn’t one of those hard-bop mathematicians who buries you under an avalanche of black notes. He’s a sentimentalist (“Delphia”), a clown (“Red Clay”) and a common man who listens to the radio (“Cold Turkey”). Red Clay does have its musical pedigrees in place (e.g., “The Intrepid Fox”), but it’s the album’s humanity and humor that ultimately define it.

All that said, I wouldn’t go any further than to say that I like the album; I don’t love it. Maybe it’s because I don’t enjoy the sound of electric keyboards in a non-fusion jazz setting or because the remaining trio of Henderson, Carter and White make what seem to be minimal contributions to the music. Somehow, I suspect I’ll find a Freddie Hubbard album I like more from the Sixties. The 2001 digital remaster includes a live version of “Red Clay” from 1971 featuring George Benson on electric guitar and Stanley Turrentine on tenor sax that gives the original a run for its money.

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Original elpee version

A1. Red Clay (12:09)
A2. Delphia (7:21)
B1. Suite Sioux (8:37)
B2. The Intrepid Fox (10:42)

All compositions by Freddie Hubbard.

CD reissue bonus track
5. Cold Turkey (John Lennon) (10:25)

CD reissue bonus, bonus track (2002)
6. Red Clay (alternate version) (Freddie Hubbard) (18:44)

(* Not included on the original UK elpee.)

The Players

Freddie Hubbard (trumpet), Ron Carter (bass), Herbie Hancock (electric piano), Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) and Lenny White (drums). On the live track 6, the lineup is Hubbard, Carter, George Benson (guitar), Billy Cobham (drums), Johnny Hammond (organ/electric piano), Airto Moreira (percussion) and Stanley Turrentine (tenor saxophone). Produced by Creed Taylor and engineered by Rudy Van Gelder. Track 6 mixed by Michael Brauer.

The Pictures

Cover photograph by Price Givens. Album design by Tony Lane.

The Plastic

Originally recorded January 27-29, 1970 at Van Gelder Studios and released on elpee in 1970 in the US and the UK (CTI, CTI 6001) with gatefold cover.

  1. Re-issued on elpee and cassette in 1981 in the US (CTI, CTI/CTC 8016).
  2. Re-released on expanded compact disc in 1987 in the US (CBS, ZK 40809).
  3. Re-released on remastered compact disc in 2002 in the US (Epic/Legacy, EK 85216) with one bonus track.
  4. Re-released on 180g vinyl elpee (CTI, CTI 6001).
  5. Re-released on red vinyl elpee in 2013 in the US (Columbia/ORG Music, 88725467131) [exclusively sold in Barnes & Noble stores].
  6. Re-released on blu-spec compact disc on December 11, 2013 in Japan (CTI, KICJ 2332).
  7. Re-packaged with Straight Life and First Light on remastered 3-for-1 2CD on July 28, 2014 (BGO).

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