Freddie Hubbard

Keep Your Soul Together/Polar AC/Skagly

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BGO's 2014 release combines three albums Freddie Hubbard released during the '70s: 1973's Keep Your Soul Together, 1975's Polar AC, and 1979's Skagly. The disparate release dates illustrate how this three-fer covers a lot of ground, but the records essentially represent the final acts of Hubbard's time both at CTI and at Columbia. Keep Your Soul Together came out in 1974 and was his last full-fledged studio record for the label, with Polar AC functioning as a clearinghouse for his time there (two previously released cuts, plus three unheard ones), while Skagly was his last for Columbia. There are similarities running throughout these three records -- a slight emphasis on groove, a production so textured it's almost painterly, more room for improvisation than conventional wisdom suggest. There's no denying these are smooth jazz records running through the doors fusion opened but concentrating on rhythms and aural colors, which is enough to have all three albums feel of a piece, but what surprises is that underneath those glossy surfaces there are some real improvisations. Keep Your Soul Together and Polar AC veer toward hard bop solos while Skagly gets both funkier and flirts with the wide-open vistas of fusion, with the dense grooves suddenly getting spacy. Despite these avant flourishes, all three records are decidedly mainstream, in a '70s way: they're slick in a way that can fade into the background, but listen closer and it's apparent that Hubbard retained his deep jazz roots even at his smoothest moments.

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