Before Freddie Hubbard signed with CTI Records in 1970, he was already considered one of the most brilliant jazz trumpeters in the world. RED CLAY, his debut album on the label, is an exceptional set of plugged-in hard bop... more » fused with funk - and reportedly the album he considers his best. Joining him on five of the six cuts, is a crack quintet featuring longtime colleagues Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock, on tenor saxophone and keyboards respectively. The final number, a previously unissued, extended live jam on the title tune, finds Hubbard fronting an all-star septet that includes such fellow CTI stars as George Benson and Stanley Turrentine.« less
Before Freddie Hubbard signed with CTI Records in 1970, he was already considered one of the most brilliant jazz trumpeters in the world. RED CLAY, his debut album on the label, is an exceptional set of plugged-in hard bop fused with funk - and reportedly the album he considers his best. Joining him on five of the six cuts, is a crack quintet featuring longtime colleagues Joe Henderson and Herbie Hancock, on tenor saxophone and keyboards respectively. The final number, a previously unissued, extended live jam on the title tune, finds Hubbard fronting an all-star septet that includes such fellow CTI stars as George Benson and Stanley Turrentine.
"This was recorded in January of 1970. Many jazz musicians had been feeling the pressures of rock's popularity. Freddie Hubbard had occasionally experimented as early as 1966 with rock (or soul) rhythms. "Red Clay" was his first album for CTI, but it's not like his other, rock-oriented output for the label. The title cut is the only original-album tune with a rock beat. But even then, Lenny White contributes interesting stuff with quality, real-jazz interaction. Other than the organ on "Delphia," a 6/8-swing tune, Herbie Hancock plays electric piano throughout. Joe Henderson stays more in the background on those first two cuts, but the band stretches out and swings wonderfully on "Suite Sioux" and "The Intrepid Fox." Joe's solos--as usual--balance perfectly between "in" and "out." Freddie soars in typical fashion; often, it's of the can't-believe-yer-ears nature.This music--largely because of Herbie's light touch--has an airy lilt to it: a fresh, liberated feel. The electric piano (that classic Rhodes sound) is part of it, as is Ron Carter's heady, understated bass. "Cold Turkey" (a bonus cut) gets an imaginative, and yes, groovy treatment. It's hard to sit still to it. Another bonus cut, an alternate take of "Red Clay," is added this time around, but if you already own the previous CD incarnation, I don't think you need to buy this--unless you strive for completeness. Great music, folks. This wonderful album gets my unqualified recommendation, and should please both hard-core jazz fans and those who just dabble in it.
"Red Clay" Is Red Hot.
The Groove | Boston, MA | 08/10/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Some records epitomize cool, while others help define it. "Red Clay" falls into both categories, but more so the latter. Freddie Hubbard's 1970 recording for CTI records is an incredible melange of progressive jazz, old-school soul, and a dash of blues. Like many of his peers, Hubbard's taste leaned more towards raw funk, and he adopted a "fusion" sound that was apparently very popular in that era. Although the music and production here somewhat reveals its era, it's still very much fresh and relevant. Freddie bursts into a passionate solo at the opening of the title track, before it develops into a smooth and confident instrumental, replete with a kickin' bassline from Ron Carter, and a keyboard solo from Herbie Hancock. "Suite Sioux" is a more traditional bop piece that has Hubbard and saxophonist Joe Henderson in solid form, and we also get a bold re-working of John Lennon's "Cold Turkey." But the disc's peak is saved for last: the bonus track which is an alternate version of the title cut. Performed live, this version is loose, less constructed, and more free-flowing than the original studio recording. For any lover of jazz with a progressive edge, "Red Clay" should be a no-brainer of a purchase."
Half-great early fusion (3.5 stars)
A.Y.H. | Toronto, Ontario Canada | 05/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Freddie Hubbard might be my favorite trumpeter; indeed, he's one of my favorite soloists in any genre of music. Consistently, he encompasses the sensitivity (but not the sentimentality) of Miles Davis, the indomitable bravura of Lee Morgan, sometimes even the restlesness, vulnerability and ecstasy of John Coltrane. That being said, he has no essential LP of his own, because he does almost all of what he does best on other people's albums - Coltrane's Ascension; Dolphy's Out to Lunch!; Shorter's Speak No Evil; two peerless Herbie Hancock sessions, Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage.
Most of the cast of those latter two records turns up here, with Ron Carter swooping up and down the fingerboard of a fretless electric bass, and Herbie Hancock contending with the flattened dynamics of a Fender Rhodes electric piano. Neither of them, nor Freddie, are exactly at their very best here, but as their very best is among the greatest jazz ever recorded, I'm more than willing to settle. On drums is the young Lenny White, making an impressive showing en route to Return to Forever.
So, yes, this is basically a fusion record, but it's one of the earliest and least offensive fusion records of all. For one thing, it's earnest: essentially it is a modal jazz record, circa '65, with boxier drumming and electric instruments. It avoids cliche by eschewing phasing effects, Hendrix guitarisms or much by way of Sly; indeed it sounds delightfully not at all like contemporaneous Davis, but rather, it sounds, kinda sorta, like jazz music. Good, old-fashioned blues-based (or modal) jazz music.
The first track is the sole masterwork, perhaps Hubbard's greatest composition, and one of a handful of his greatest performances. The arrangement is pulverizing, with climax after climax - each successive segment wrenches up the tension and fire. Hubbard mostly stays inside, playing a blues scale with lambent conviction, atop wistful chords; but tenorist Joe Henderson goes much farther afield in his solo section, a half-Archie Shepp, half-deluge thing that audibly riles up Freddie.
Next comes "Delphia", an exquisitely pretty if somewhat torpid ballad, with Henderson humming distantly into a flute and Hancock playing some pro forma Hammond organ; the followup, "Suite Sioux" is even less interesting, a frivolous bossa nova thing with another good Henderson solo.
The original LP closes with another excellent extended piece, "The Intrepid Fox", an urgent theme built on a feverish quote from Coltrane's "Cousin Mary". Again, Hubbard sounds strangely conservative, but even when Freddie feels he hasn't got anything to prove, he proves much. Hancock sounds livelier here than otherwise, but in general I am disappointed with his performances on this disc; he might be the greatest jazz pianist who's ever lived, but the electric instrument is not his purview, with his clustered Tyneresque pianisms here the resulting sound is often toylike. (The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Carter, who nonetheless solos ably throughout.)
The bonus tracks are enjoyable, but superfluous. The version of Lennon's "Cold Turkey" is at once seriously funky and way, way out there, with Hubbard's most unhinged playing since the mid-sixties; but Lennon's tune isn't very sturdy. The live version of the title track is good, but a little protracted.
Recommended for fans."
No Feet Of Clay Here
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 08/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Freddie Hubbard's Red Clay starts off arguably the finest stretch of trumpeter's career. The album hints at jazz-rock fusion that would take over the 1970's, but still is strongly rooted in hard bop. The title track is a beautiful piece of music with Mr. Hubbard and saxophonist Joe Henderson perfectly melding their instruments together over the top of a slithering electric piano riff from Herbie Hancock. "The Intrepid Fox" is another classic with Mr. Hancock driving the song with some superb piano work and drummer Lenny White providing a sturdy backbeat. There is also a strong funk sound throughout the album and that is a sound Mr. Hubbard would move more towards as the decade progressed."