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Hub Cap (1961)

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Cedar Walton

On Hub Cap, his third effort as a leader, Freddie Hubbard sticks to the tried-and-true hard bop formula, which is something of a mixed blessing. There's no question that much of this music is enjoyable, but it's not quite up to the standards of its two predecessors. Part of the problem is Hubbard's sextet, which features tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, trombonist Julian Priester, pianist Cedar Walton, bassist Larry Ridley, and drummer "Philly" Joe Jones. All of the musicians are talented, but only a few are inventive, and that becomes a problem, since it becomes clear that Hubbard is beginning to break free from his influences and develop his own style. In other words, he's capable of more adventurous music than this straight-ahead hard bop. That said, Hub Cap is a very good hard bop date. There is energy to the performances, and the artist's vigorous, inspired playing continues to impress, as do some of his original compositions. Only when compared to Hubbard's first two records, or what would come later, does Hub Cap seem like a lesser effort. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine