Week 33: Freddie Hubbard’s Open Sesame

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This week’s album – Freddie Hubbard’s debut, Open Sesame – is a must have.

Open Sesame, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard’s debut album, was released under Blue Note Records in 1960. The band was comprised of Tina Brooks on tenor saxophone, McCoy Tyner on piano, Clifford Jarvis on drums, and Sam Jones on bass.

The record is introduced with the half-swing/half-Latin title track, “Open Sesame.” This is classic Freddie Hubbard; after the head of the tune, Freddie breaks into an energetic and wonderful improvisation. The backing rhythm section is glued together with a strong and steady pulse from the bass and drums, while McCoy Tyner lays down a nice harmonic foundation over which Freddie and Tina Brooks solo. A short solo from McCoy near the end brings the head back and takes the song out, as the record smoothly transitions to the next track on the album, the ballad “But Beautiful.” On this tune, Freddie displays a wonderful use of legato lines and phrases, while Tina provides a wonderful counter-melody and bass and drums support the harmony.

“Gypsy Blue” breaks into another Latin-inspired melody and groove with a minor flair. After the head, the tune switches to a medium-up tempo swing feel with a saxophone solo. In between each improvisational section the tune segues back into the head, then out into the next solo section. Trumpet, piano, and bass are all heard improvising on this tune.

McCoy Tyner brings in the next piece, “All or Nothing At All,” which smashes into an up-tempo swing. Freddie Hubbard is the only one playing the chorus melody after the piano introduction. Tina Brooks interjects from time to time with his great sense of counter-melody. This fun, swinging tune ends with a cadenza-like section from Hubbard, with harmony moving under his improvisational lines.

“One Mint Julep” is a straight, hard-swinging blues. The tune follows a classic structure of an introduction, head, solo sections, head, and an outro. Each soloist throughout the tune keeps their melodic phrasing and note choice very simple and idiomatic to the blues, with a few exceptions here and there. The final track on the record, “Hub’s Nub,” is certainly a bit more bop-influenced than many of the other tunes on the album. An up-tempo swing tune, the harmony is more consistent with bop, as is the harmonic sensibility of the musicians throughout.

This is a must have album for anyone wanting to dive into jazz as a new listener, or a seasoned one! This quintet has a tight yet carefree sound that showcases the spontaneity of the playing and improvisation. I would also recommend listening to other great Freddie Hubbard records, like On The Real Side, Goin’ Up, and A Tribute to Miles – Jazz Jamboree Warsaw ’91. 

Attached below is a remastered, re-released version of Open Sesame, which includes wonderful alternate takes of “Open Sesame” and “Gypsy Blue”.

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          February 10, 2018