Thursday, March 5, 2020

Freddie Hubbard 1938-2008 – A Tribute

© -Steven Cerra, copyright protected; all rights reserved.

An inquiry from an Internet friend reminded us that we haven’t had any hard bop playing on the site in quite a while.  The same inquiry reminded us about how well the late trumpeter Freddie Hubbard played this form of Jazz. He was also an excellent composer.

One of the best exponents of hard bop, a genre that had its heyday from approximately 1955–1965, was drummer Art Blakey and his Jazz Messengers.

Freddie played trumpet with Art’s group in the early 1960s. And what a powerhouse group it was with Wayne Shorter on tenor saxophone, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Cedar Walton on piano, Jymie Merritt on bass and the irrepressible Mr. Blakey on drums.

If you like Muscle Jazz, than this is the band for you.

Freddie wrote great tunes throughout career, but his compositions during his stint with Art’s band were particularly noteworthy [bad pun intended!].

One of these, entitled Crisis, has always been a particular favorite.

Crisis is an unusual tune in that it is unlike the 12 and 16-bar blues and 32-bar song patterns that are more common to Jazz.

The piece is 56-bars long and is made up of a 16 bar phrase which is repeated, followed by an 8 bar release or bridge and then the same 16 bar phrase is used as a closing refrain.  In essence, it is an AABA format but each “A” is 16 bars long instead of the usual 8, while the bridge remains at 8-bars.

Each 16 bar phrase uses a downward chordal and melodic movement that determines the character of the piece. Or as Freddie himself explains it: “For the first twelve of each sixteen, we play softly over a gentle chordal base, and then for the last four, we explode!”

After bassist Jymie Merritt begins the piece with an 8-bar introduction which pianist Walton then plays in unison beginning at 0:11, you can hear these 4-bar “explosions” in the melody at 0:47, 1:08 and 1:30 minutes.

The melody itself is first stated at 0:32, repeated at 0:53 and the closing refrain begins at 1:25 minutes.  The bridge or the release can be heard from 1:14 to 1:25 minutes.

The descending chordal and melodic movements are played from 0:32 – 0:47, 0:53 – 1:08 and 1:25 – 1:39 minutes. You can also discern the first 12 bars of each of the “A” choruses by listening for the quasi-Latin beat that bassist Merritt and drummer Blakey play before moving to straight 4/4 time for the last four bars of each of these choruses. The bridge is also played in straight-ahead 4/4 time.  Lot’s going on, here, but once again the patterns are easy to follow if you just open your ears.

We certainly hope that trying to follows these timings and descriptions about what’s happening in the music does not place you in … Crisis.

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