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  • This collection on the U.K.'s Soul Brother imprint is a very compelling look at a big slice of Freddie Hubbard's long career as a leader, and one that gets ignored for the most part. Hubbard recorded over 20 records between Backlash, his Atlantic debut in 1966, and Ride Like the Wind for Elektra in 1982, with lengthy stops at Columbia and CTI (as well some straight hard bop and post-bop outings for labels Fantasy and Pablo). In many cases, some of these original recordings were not only disregarded by more traditional jazzheads, they were regarded with outright hostility. It didn't matter to Hubbard, however, because at the time, these were among his best-selling albums and connected with the public deeply. This 18-cut set leaves out the straighter jazz albums and his dates as a sideman -- there were dozens -- in favor of Hubbard's long sojourn into soul-jazz, fusion, and jazz-funk. The early soul-jazz sides on Atlantic are represented by a pair of cuts from Backlash and one each from High Blues Pressure and A Soul Experiment, before moving into his years with Creed Taylor. These years contain classics such as the title jams from Red Clay and First Light, but they go deeper and get stranger -- as well as more cosmic -- with the inclusion of tracks like "Povo," a wild reading of "People Make the World Go Around," and "Spirits of Trane" from Polar AC and Keep Your Soul Together. Disc two also includes far funkier jams such as "Baraka Sasa" and "Kuntu" from High Energy and Liquid Love, respectively. There are certainly albums left out from this period, even those that followed the grooved-out dictums of the tracks included, but it hardly matters since what is presented here is the best of the best, even following Hubbard's trail all the way down to albums like Splash and Born to Be Blue. In other words, this is a great introduction to the music of Hubbard after his initial Blue Note period and before he returned to his hard bop roots in the middle of the 1980s. In fact, the only thing that would surpass this set is owning the albums these tunes were culled from. ~ Thom Jurek
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