Freddie Hubbard is one of America’s most celebrated trumpeters. With a tone both muscular and subtle and a conception of time both precise and effortless, Hubbard is a synthesis of contradiction. His emergence on the scene is rather surprising when you think about it. As a 20 year-old, Hubbard jumped into a New York Jazz scene that was dominated by seriously hard-hitting trumpeters. Getting your voice heard amongst monsters like Miles and Clifford Brown is like establishing yourself as a great rapper while Nas and Kanye are on the same stage. Although influenced by the luminaries that surrounded him, Hubbard had a sound that was truly his own.

Emerging on the scene at around the same time was saxophonist Wayne Shorter. This cat was getting his name heard through his work with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and later, through his playing with Miles’s Second Great Quintet. As an improviser, his voice was raw and driven by pure gut feeling. Often times utilizing open space, Wayne Shorter’s rhythmic feel was loose and free flowing. Wayne also established himself through his unrivaled compositional gifts. Filled with both thoughtful and perplexing harmony, Wayne’s tunes challenged and intrigued his listeners.


In the middle of his 6-year stint with Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter recorded several of his own albums. 1964 in particular was a busy year for this New Jersey born saxophonist. Fresh off the release of Night Dreamer and Juju, Wayne began recording the album Speak No Evil. Pushing away from the sound of Lee Morgan, and Miles Davis, Wayne decided to bring in Freddie Hubbard. What they recorded together on Speak No Evil is perhaps the greatest documentation of their work together.

While Speak No Evil hints at the style of Mile’s Second Great Quintet, it has a sound that is truly authentic. With Elvin Jones, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard and Wayne Shorter, this quintet recorded some of the most cohesive, playful, recordings of its time. On the tune Witch Hunt, the rhythm section lays down a chilling groove. Their swing feel is light as a feather, gently pushing the time forward. With understated, nuanced rhythmic phrases, Herbie beautifully comps beneath Wayne and Freddie. Composed mainly of perfect fourths, the head of the tune is reminiscent of McCoy Tyner in his usage of quartal harmony. After the group plays through the head, Wayne steps forwards and begins to blow. His solo begins with a more open approach, creating space and aggressively extending notes in length. As Elvin intricately subdivides the time underneath, Wayne intensifies the dynamics, creating an almost wailing sound with his horn. The emotional clarity of his playing gives the solo a sense of climactic arc. Then Freddie begins to play. His lines are slick, precise, and melodic, beautifully juxtaposing Wayne’s more atmospheric solo. This recording is not only a display of Freddie’s prowess on the trumpet; it is also an exhibition of his ability to take on the role of a sideman.

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Speak No Evil is an album that with only 7 tracks can provide a lifetime worth of focused listening. It is a clinic on swing, and an encyclopedia on accompaniment. It is albums likes these that remind us of the giants whose shoulders we all stand upon.

Words by Zeb Stern


10/5 Revive Big Band Celebrates the Music of Wayne Shorter & Freddie Hubbard, and Brooklyn Jazz with Special Guests Oliver Lake & Sean Jones

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