Sometimes You Gotta Keep Goin’

JJ INCJ.J. Johnson with tromboneHub

 

When the LP J.J. Inc. by J. J. Johnson– http://www.allmusic.com/album/jj-inc-mw0000595247 — was first released in 1961, I rushed out and grabbed a copy. It instantly became, and still is, one of my favorite albums. Great writing and arrangements by J.J. and all of the players were popping.

On one of the tracks–Shutterbug–I noticed what seemed to be a glitch during Freddie Hubbard’s solo.  Each time I listened to it, I always heard that spot. I subsequently met and had several conversations with J.J., but I never asked him about it; although I did tell him it was one of my favorites.  J.J. said it was a “Milestones groove”. It was also my good fortune to later play with and befriend Freddie Hubbard.

So, one day as Freddie and I were talking about him working in that band I mentioned it. He perked up and said:
“Let me tell you about that Hall.” He began by telling me about the session, noting that except for one track the LP was recorded on one day. No more than two takes on each track and, in the case of Shutterbug, one. He told me that it was no issue at all because this was a ‘working band’; they played these tunes on a nightly basis on the gigs they were doing. I remember him mentioning that they did some tunes that,
to his knowledge, were never released from that date. Although several versions of the ‘master’ have been released over the years, the essence of the track has not been edited or otherwise tampered with; only the sonic properties have changed via digital enhancements.

Now, before I tell you how Freddie remembered the track, take a listen to it yourself, even if you’ve heard it before,  paying attention to his solo.

 

It’s not a matter of a mistake or an error, it was rather an occurrence or incident. Something that happens and has happened too many times to think of trying to tally. It happens in the studio, on the bandstand and whenever
musicians play, especially when improvisation is involved. If it happens during a rehearsal, the playing might stop;  but, if the groove outweighs the blip, you just keep going like Freddie and the band did here. Thankfully the producer did too.

Sometimes, it’s never even mentioned or acknowledged when it goes down. Freddie said that’s what happened here.  But everybody probably realized what happened. This track is uptempo and what did happen went down in a flash.

As I began to recollect all of this, I asked a couple of musicians to listen to this track and give me some feedback, one of which was Mitch Hampton. I didn’t tell them why or what my agenda was. Mitch got back to me with outstanding insights on Freddie’s playing and the recording itself.  But, he didn’t mention anything about what Freddie and I talked to.
I’m sure he heard it, but like most—it was not a big issue.  And actually, in the scheme of things, it’s not. It just happened.  I also asked a couple of trumpet players who, admittedly, are indebted to Freddie’s influence. However, as of this writing, I have not received a reply.

So, now let’s get to the issue of this thing OK. Here is what I heard and Freddie explained to me what actually went down:
It was decided—in the studio–that each solo would be four choruses starting with a vamp interlude and lead-in —by way, we discussed the often missed fact, that the interludes were voiced differently each time; J.J. got that idea from Horace Silver according to Freddie. If you noticed, all of the soloist—including J.J.–play four (4) choruses as talked to and Freddie crafted his solo to build into the final one. However, when he hit the vamp after his 4th chorus to lead into the tenor solo, nobody else–other than him the drums and bass did the vamp; that was the ‘blip’.  Freddie said it was never really discussed after the session. Listen carefully, the band reacted and recovered on a dime and Freddie did something spontaneously amazing; he incorporated the vamp figure into what would become his 5th chorus.  And, the band played on. Maybe Freddie mesmerized the other cats–who knows (smile).

Just like the eager lensman depicted in the title, this track snaps powerful shots; however, sometimes a negative doesn’t make the cut and falls to the darkroom floor. The only ones to notice are the photographer, the photo buff
and perhaps the subject.

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About Sanifu Al Hall, Jr.

Musician, arranger, composer, producer and radio commentator based in Jacksonville FL.
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2 Responses to Sometimes You Gotta Keep Goin’

  1. 1970scholar says:

    This is a deep post, on many levels. Looked at in one way it demonstrates what an incredibly masterful and precise player Freddie Hubbard was, just nailing the form, but also it demonstrates that even with “blip” and all, the entire band made a solid piece of music no matter what, so much so that they went with the take as was.

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