No one should consider the pairing of great jazz trumpeters Freddie Hubbard and Woody Shaw akin to oil and water. Both are on fire, defer to each other's personalized sound, and swing hard with fervor, supported by an equally talented band featuring the always wondrous pianist Mulgrew Miller, bassist Ray Drummond, and drummer Carl Allen. The X factor is alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, fresh off a stint with Miles Davis, who rounds out the overall sound and contributes a vital harmonic element to the double-edged swords Hubbard and Shaw wield. The eight tracks are balanced between originals by the co-leaders and compositions from their revered predecessors, all molded into straight-ahead, no-nonsense hard bop. Shaw's famous "Moontrane" and lesser-known "Tomorrow's Destiny" are shining examples of how to modernize tried and true bop themes, the former a memorable hard-charging number with the brass players shadowing each other in full, rich dialog, the latter cleanly moving from inventive spatial modal tones to calypso and bebop with seamless acumen. Hubbard's "Down Under" challenges the soul shuffle precept with some great harmonic content from the three horns, while the neglected "Nostrand and Fulton" moves from beats of four, five, and six with seeming magical cues that fool you until you listen a second or third time. Lee Morgan's "Calling Miss Khadija" contains much spirit in a modal 6/8 framework; Kenny Dorham's "São Paulo" uses flutter and trilled unison lines effectively with melodic long tones and tuneful notes within the spaces; and the straight Sonny Stitt bopper "The Eternal Triangle" simply steams ahead with Hubbard, Shaw, and Garrett like a passenger train. Little Benny Harris wrote the closer, "Reets and I," for Bud Powell, and on this session the band does nothing to diminish its impact. What Miller brings to this group cannot be discounted, a presence in terms of support, but also one who is clearly having a ball inventing chords and substituting his own harmonic flourishes, clearly inspired by his cohorts. This group toured sporadically, giving live audiences a stretched-out taste of what these two brilliant musicians were capable of dishing out in their later -- but still formative -- years. You'd be hard-pressed to find another pairing of great jazz trumpeters that made music as spectacular as is heard on this essential recording, perfect or fans, students, or those who simply love a hard-swinging, boldly played brass horn or two.
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AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos