I’m not typically a huge fan of the CTI catalog. Creed Taylor’s production aesthetic leans towards a sterile polish, with a dampened sense of dynamic, and with the listener feeling like they are hearing everything through headphones even when they’re not. Everything feels close-mic’d to me — the drum sound favors close-mic techniques over overhead microphones that are more common in jazz recordings from the hard-bop era where cats like Hubbard cut their teeth, resulting in a drum sound that doesn’t “breath” or have much “air,” to use the usual sound engineer metaphors. And all this in spite of the fact that the one and only Rudy Van Gelder was manning the controls as lead engineer. But I don’t really know anything about what the CTI situation was like behind the scenes.. Perhaps some kind blog visitor will set me straight.
But this record stands as a shining exception for me. Not that those production elements aren’t still there to some extent, but Hubbard’s vibrant arrangements and the energy of this ensemble overcome them easily. To borrow some imagery from my friend Clint Striker, CTI records are often just too “clean” — they could benefit from being more “dirty.” Well this one still has some grit to it, some “dirt,” particularly in the lovely Fender Rhodes work from Herbie Hancock and Johnny Hammond, the latter on the previously unissued live performance of the title track. This track is in itself worth the price of admission of this remaster. It highlights the funky loose-booty tightness and explosive dynamism that Hubbard’s band was capable of when they were not reined in by Taylor’s hermetic controls.
I think the best way to hear this album is on wax. If I had time – which I don’t — I’d give you all a vinyl rip. But this remaster, loud and brash as it may be, should hold you over. Enjoy!
Freddie Hubbard – Red Clay (1970) 320 kbs in em pee three
Originally released on CTI
Reissued in 2002 as a Legacy Remaster