There are a couple of signature tunes, among them the blistering opener "The Intrepid Fox," melodically gorgeous "First Light," expressive "Blues For Duane," and furious finale "Giant Steps." Ranelin has his best moments on "The Intrepid Fox" and "Giant Steps," while Schinitter's most memorable playing comes on the lush "Happiness is Now." Caliman was a player better known for participation in rock and pop sessions than jazz, but he displays on "Blues For Duane" and "Giant Steps" a full, explosive sound, solid tone and unflagging intensity. Both Marshall and Lott are fine drummers, but it's Marshall's percussive vitality that add some extra firepower to his four tunes, especially "Giant Steps" and "The Summer Knows."
Still, this is ultimately a strong showcase for Hubbard, who often reaches peaks and hits notes that would seem impossible if you were just looking at a transcription. He not only could execute stunning passages in any tempo, but was just as brilliant doing slow, evocative ballads as he was in attack mode. He also never hit any sour notes or ran out of ideas. Childs' work on either acoustic or electric proved the ideal counterpart. He could contrast or complement Hubbard's bombastic moments, offer his own intriguing counter direction, or create a compelling transitional journey back to Hubbard's dynamic melodic fireworks. Though the music might be more than three decades old, it has an edge and freshness that rival anything being done right now. It's also another fine indicator of Freddie Hubbard's instrumental prowess.
"Jail House Bound: John Lomax's First Southern Recordings, 1933"
(West Virginia University Press)
John Lomax re-entered the world of song collecting in 1933, when he made his first journey to a serious of Southern prisons with his son Alan. They wanted to document the music of Black Americans, get as comprehensive a selection of their folk songs as they'd done with Lomax's "Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads" back in 1910. While their various adventures and difficulties have been extensively discussed in multiple accounts and the music reissued in various places, the recent announcement that the entire 17,000 song Lomax collection would be released online has rekindled interest in the many classic tunes that they unearthed, both across the nation and around the world. "Jail House Bound" is the ninth volume in the West Virginia Sound Archive, and it spotlights the earliest prison recordings collected during visits to institutions in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The results range from erratic to astonishing, but there's nothing here artificial or manufactured.
Unfortunately, the process of prisoner identification is so flimsy that on some tunes no names are available. On others only one performer's name is available. Indeed a couple of the collection's finest tunes, "He Never Said A Mumbling Word" and "John Henry" features prisoners from the Parchman and Mississippi State Penitentiaries respectively. It would also be nice to know who's backing "Lighting" Wilson during his madcap performances on "Good God Almighty" and "Long Gone." The material jumps for spiritual to secular, story songs to topical pieces like "Ain't No More Cane On The Brazos" and also includes traditional works such as "The Midnight Special" featuring Ernest "Mexico" Williams and "Levee Camp Holler" from John "Black Sampson" Gibson. The engineering and mastering have cleaned up sound problems and the set nicely communicates the blend of emotions displayed by the prisoners. Sometimes they sound nervous or pre-occupied, other times inspired, playful, or emergized. Occasionally, they sound dispirited or in despair, but mostly they come alive during the singing, using it as a vehicle to temporarily forget their surroumdings.
The disc also includes an interesting interview with Lomax that was done by Miles L. Hanley for the American Dialect Society in 1933. Both his admirers and detractors will find material that fits their assessment of him, but one thing isn't in doubt. Had he not made this and many other trips we would have no idea about a host of vintage songs, among them the ones available on this outstanding anthology.