Recording information: Columbia Studio B (04/29/1974-05/02/1974); Media Sound (04/29/1974-05/02/1974); Sunset Sound Recorders, Hollywood, CA (04/29/1974-05/02/1974); Wally Heider's, Los Angeles, CA (04/29/1974-05/02/1974).
Illustrator: Lou Beach.
Photographers: David Alexander ; Fred Valentine.
Freddie Hubbard got a bad rap from jazz critics while at Columbia -- most absolutely hated the music he made there because it indulged pop, soul, funk, and even disco abundantly. He got the last laugh, though. The critics were wrong. Great Britain's BGO offers proof in this two-disc set that contains Hubbard's first three Columbia albums from the mid-'70s: High Energy (1974), the provocatively titled Liquid Love (1975), and Windjammer (1976). Hubbard employed his own quintet on High Energy (something he couldn't do previously at CTI), which was comprised of Junior Cook, George Cables, Kent Brinkley, and Ralph Penland. Produced by the well-noted Paul A. Rothchild (the Doors, Love, Joni Mitchell, Janis Joplin) with guest spots by Pete Christlieb, Ernie Watts, Harvey Mason, and Dick Hyde, High Energy includes two stellar compositions each from Cables and Hubbard, and two covers of Stevie Wonder tunes ("Black Maybe" and "Too High"). High Energy is kinetic, deeply funky, and filled with stellar melodies and solos. It is jazz-funk at its best. Hubbard produced Liquid Love himself, and utilized the talents of a large group of players; only Cables remained. Studio players included Ray Parker, Jr., Ian Underwood, bassists Henry Franklin and Chuck Rainey, Spider Webb, and even Johnny Guitar Watson on the set's opener and single, a cover of "Midnight at the Oasis." He enraged "purist" critics even further. Hubbard wasn't really even thinking about recording jazz. He was consciously recording dancefloor-oriented, jazzy funk that connected with the public and with club DJs. His own tune, "Put It in the Pocket," reflected P-Funk, and the title cut was aimed straight at the dancefloor of discos. Cables' "Lost Dreams" is very much in Miles Davis' On the Corner mode while "Kuntu" follows suit. Windjammer was an even greater step toward crossover music. Produced and arranged by his old CTI running partner Bob James, with an enormous cast, Hubbard further outraged critics by doing a soulful reading of Gary Wright's pop hit "Dream Weaver," as well as Morris Albert's "Feelings;" both tunes are fine mellow groovers. James' "Touch Me Baby" is full if disco-kissed synth flourishes, while Hubbard's own "Neo Terra" and the title track close it out with two breakbeat-ridden, deep funk steppers. Apparently, despite critics' accusations and tortured lamentations, all three recordings did very well -- they all placed in the Top Ten on the jazz charts and in the Top 25 on the R&B charts. The remastering job on this BGO set is stellar; full, warm, and precise. The liner essay by Charles Waring is historically authoritative and musically insightful. If mid-'70s jazz-funk is your thing, you simply cannot go wrong with this collection. ~ Thom Jurek