As most Freddie Hubbard fans know, his discography can be divided into two distinct categories: 1) his highly acclaimed pre-1975 recordings, and 2) his far-less-acclaimed post-1975 recordings. What happened in 1975? He signed on with Columbia and released a string of albums that can best be described as soul/funk/disco rather than jazz (and I'm attempting to be diplomatic here). Visit any good used record store and you will find truckloads of these albums carefully filed behind Freddie's name.
Then suddenly, in 1981, he released Outpost, his only album on the Enja label. This recording harks back to his classic sound, almost as if those Columbia albums had never happened. With Kenny Barron on piano, Buster Williams on bass, Al Foster on drums, and a very ECM-ish cover, Freddie declares in no uncertain terms that he is back (even if he never really left).
Outpost opens with "Santa Anna Winds", a brooding yet turbulent Hubbard composition with an exploratory center section that highlights his fiery trumpet tone. The flugelhorn ballad "You don't know what love is" will not make anybody forget his performance of "Here's That Rainy Day" (from 1970's Straight Life) but is still far above the crowd. The straight ahead "Outpost Blues" features Freddie at his swinging best. The uptempo "Dual Force" gives composer Buster Williams a chance to shine on the bass. Eric Dolphy's "Loss" closes the album with Freddie putting his own virtuosic stamp on some challenging material.
And now for the disclaimers: 1) the credits on this album clearly read "Freddie Hubbard: trumpet", but the man is very obviously playing the flugelhorn on both "You don't know what love is" and "Dual Force". 2) piano master Kenny Barron gives a fabulous performance throughout this album, but is sadly buried far too low in the mix. At the same time, bassist Buster Williams and drummer Al Foster are almost too loud, and many times are drowning out Barron's piano work (credit: producer Horst Weber, engineer David Baker). If you can overlook these faults, you should have no problem enjoying this album. With a back-catalog like Freddie's, it's easy to condemn with faint praise, but I can definitely recommend this album even if it's not one of his Blue Note/Atlantic/CTI classics.