Like its predecessor, 2001's New Colors, On the Real Side, which again pairs Freddie Hubbard with the New Jazz Composers Octet (David Weiss, trumpet; Myron Walden, alto sax; Jimmy Greene, tenor and soprano sax; Steve Davis, trombone; Norbert Stachel, baritone sax and flute; Xavier Davis, piano; Dwayne Burno, bass; and E.J. Strickland, drums, plus guests Craig Handy, tenor sax on two tracks and flute on a third, and Russell Malone, guitar on the title tune), is in essence a victory lap for the veteran horn player, whose chops are admittedly diminished as he reaches age 70. Annotator Bill Milkowski makes no bones about that and even quotes Hubbard to the effect that "I gotta resolve myself to be happy with what I can do now...play a couple of choruses and get out." As such, this album -- with the exception of the newly written title track -- consists of re-recordings of Hubbard favorites, functioning as a tribute disc on which the honoree sits in. In that sense, it might be compared to the latter day recordings of Brian Wilson in the pop realm, in which a group of technically proficient Beach Boys fans efficiently plays the composer's music around him as he pitches in. At that, the result is not unpleasant, and Hubbard even manages some good solos, or at least parts of solos, before giving way to his acolytes. It is notable that he only plays flugelhorn, especially since he is glimpsed holding a trumpet on the album cover.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann