Freddie. What a great word. Freddie. Anyone who’s into jazz knows what name’s coming next. Sadly, the great Mr Hubbard has moved on to the great jam session in the sky but there are always the records, and the people who sound great in the Freddie idiom (not like Freddie, there’s a big difference, isn’t there?), are doing some great things. Just think Jeremy Pelt for one, and Eddie Henderson burrowing deep into the style in the Cookers as well.
And on a different tack with plenty to say on his own account, in his own way and his own time, and a sound you just want to bottle and enjoy at a moment’s notice is trumpeter Pharez Whitted, who plays in the Freddie domain and then some.
His new album For The People is an absolute pleasure from start to finish. It’s released on the Origin label, and it’s got Bobby Broom on it. Say no more. You may have heard the soulful guitarist with Sonny Rollins or know his own records. Broom co-produced the record with Whitted, who’s 52, and lives in Chicago where he is an associate professor of music at Chicago State. He’s also a member of an Indianapolis jazz family, the son of a drummer and vocalist/bassist, and the nephew of the great Slide Hampton. Freddie Hubbard and Wes Montgomery, both of whom Pharez’s dad played with, they even practised in his grandparents’ house, and Pharez’s brothers are jazz musicians, while one of his sisters sings.
A sextet record with 11 tracks For The People comes after Transient Journey from two years ago with a big break of 14 years before that release until the previous record. So while not prolific as a recording artist, it doesn’t show one bit, and this record just cries out to be heard.
All the tunes are originals and they’re steeped in a deep understanding of the vibrant sub-currents within hard bop that makes the music swell and froth. Take the first track ‘Watusi Boogaloo’, which refers to the dance craze of the early-1960s, or ‘Keep The Faith’ written with President Barack Obama in mind: both have got that indefinable feel of the undergrowth and energy and filters into a very hip momentum. Four more years, in 4/4, or whatever meter it takes!
Whitted’s trumpet combines mostly on the record like a boxer sparring amiably with Eddie Bayard on tenor and soprano saxophones. Bayard, Whitted taught and mentored at Ohio State, and there is good rapport between the two bolstered by ingenious and hearty support from drummer Greg Artry. Broom’s role is more subtle at times, and the artillery is provided mainly when bassist Dennis Carroll whips up the big beats thrown over from Ron Perrillo on piano. The great educator David Baker taught Pharez at Indiana University where the trumpeter did his masters, and his learning shows in the best possible manner because he performs with all that key theory in his head, as if he has a picture of the style in front of him, a knowledge of the sound and is instinctive enough not to fuss about the arcane detail but make sure the feeling is right. His days recording and touring with John Mellencamp may be long back, and a 1990s smooth diversion similarly so. But this record stands on its own, a refreshing blast of hard bop and more. If you’re always going to be ready for Freddie you’ll definitely be in the mood for Pharez.
Pharez Whitted, pictured top
When Saturday comes it’s a jazz indie record night this week at Kings Place as the Norwegian label Hubro presents two bands from its roster.
“Label night" has a certain ring to it, you don’t hear that expression so much any more, do you? But that’s not all, as the bands in question are also very out-of-the-ordinary. Because, taking to the small stage in the agreeably contemplative atmosphere of Hall 2 in the York Way venue not far away from the recently ensconced Central St Martin’s art college, are the folk/improv ensemble 1982 with BJ Cole, Cole being the famed Enfield-born pedal steel player who ages ago was in country rock band Cochise, and who has appeared since on albums by a wide range of big name artists including David Sylvian and Elvis Costello. BJ appears alongside the integrated trio of hardanger fiddle virtuoso ECM artist Nils Økland; organist Sigbjørn Apeland; and drummer Øyvind Skarbø.
Support is provided by the promising Moskus, and both bands have records out, the self titled 1982 with BJ Cole, and the Moskus release Salmesykkel, the trio’s gently loping arthouse debut released on CD and vinyl with a striking cover depicting assorted bits of slumbering statuary, and, um, a bicycle.
Very much still in their twenties pianist Anja Lauvdal, bassist Fredrik Luhr Dietrichson and drummer Hans Hulbækmo emerged initially from the Trondheim Conservatory of Music scene, and nestling on the Hubro roster, a subsidiary of Norwegian indie record company Grappa, a label that describes itself as cherishing the album as a “physical object”, now sit comfortably alongside such contrasting and complementary luminaries as the neo-doom inclined improv-rockers Splashgirl, and bassist Mats Eilertsen, best known for his tenure in the Tord Gustavsen Ensemble, and whose album Skydive got good reviews last year. Hubro has taste, and a bagful of ideas, and you will have too, very probably, if you find yourself in the audience when Saturday comes.
Moskus pictured top and 1982 with BJ Cole, above