Monday, January 04, 2021

Listening: holy shnikeys

A couple of standards from the album The Hub of Hubbard, by Freddie Hubbard. With Louis Hayes on drums and Richard Davis on bass, plus Roland Hanna and Eddie Daniels. Recorded in Germany in 1969 while this group was on tour. Normally one would expect a band to be sounding really tight after a tour— here it led to something really wild. When Without A Song came up in a mix, my impression during the first 30 seconds was this sounds bad

And some of it does— that happens. Hayes is real busy, blowing through the parts where a drummer would normally be playing arrangement stuff— it doesn't work for me. And the bass and drums are generally in different time zones, with the bass often way ahead, to the point that Davis's quarter notes are landing on Hayes's &s. It creates a real chaotic edge, and leads to some real confusion at times— like at the end of the tenor solo. I've heard Davis do this in a less extreme a way on other records— floating it in, playing around with being way ahead of the beat. Music can sound good when it's on the edge of falling apart— at best here there's a kind of wild Mingus-like energy; at worst it sounds like everybody is powering it in from different wings of the building and conflicting with each other.

Next they play Just One Of Those Things rather quickly. The tempo starts around quarter note = 430, and gets up to around 470 at  times. Much of it hangs around 450... insofar as it's possible to get an accurate tempo from that. That's more relatable as whole notes, at 108-117. In my mind the normal top absurd tempo is around 400, or whole note = 100. As an experiment you can try playing 16th notes with one hand at 100, 108, and 117, that gives you an idea of the scale of tempos we're dealing with. It's all totally ridiculous.  

Louis Hayes starts it with an intro played on the cymbals, reminiscent of Philly Joe Jones playing Tune Up with Miles Davis— to me two notable occurrences = a pattern, and now that's something you do when playing real fast tempos. 

Strange things happen when you try to play a jazz feel at a tempo where it's impossible to do so. Hayes's default time feel is sort of a mutant Charleston— following the rhythm of the tune. You hear something like this during the head and for much of Hubbard's solo: 

His quarter notes on the cymbal are shuffling out— that's the actual rhythm he plays, when you slow down the recording— and there's no hihat at all that I can hear. The time feel is mostly driven by half notes and dotted half notes played on the bass drum and cymbal, with a little snare drum. He's fluffing in some texture in between as best he can. Really the harmonic rhythm is the primary pulse all of this is hanging off of.  

Eddie Daniels half-times the last chorus of his solo, which you would think would be a big smoking invitation for the rhythm section to join him for a breather, maybe play half time on the piano solo— but they don't take it— some kind of ethic of not punking out, perhaps. As wild as it all sounds, Hayes is right on it when Hubbard comes in on the head out. Freddie Hubbard is horrifying through all of this— a pure freight train. At the end of the track one of the players says “Now let's try it at the real tempo.”

The other tunes on the album are a medium blues and a ballad, and they sound great.  


Anonymous said...

Another bad recording of legendary jazz musicians is the recently released Espace Cardin 1977 by Dexter Gordon with Kenny Clarke on drums. Kenny Clarke is all over the place on that record (it sounds like he's drunk); his time is pretty off and his solos just kind of fall apart.

Todd Bishop said...

I'd be curious to hear that. A bad night maybe.

To be clear-- I'm not criticizing the performances on the Freddie record-- I'm just saying what I'm hearing, and trying to figure out what's up. It's interesting when things are rough in kind of a big way.