Trumpeter Hubbard--an extraordinary talent whose career has ranged from exceptional heights to disheartening mediocrity--has scored again. This time, he has gathered five top jazz men--including pianist Cedar Walton, drummer Billy Higgins and saxophonist Ralph Moore--for an invigorating program that consists of four new originals, Walton’s title track and the standard “God Bless the Child.”
The tunes offer a bracing contrast of moods. “Dear John,” a tribute to John Coltrane, is based on the deluge of chords that underpinned Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps,” while “Managua” is built on a single harmony. “Bolivia” sashays back and forth between a undulating Latin feeling and a driving swing section, and “God Bless” is taken very slowly.
Unfortunately, Hubbard’s work is uneven. On “Homegrown,” which is divided between Latin and waltz-time sections, he sounds uninspired and a tad sloppy, while on “Dear John,” he darts crisply through the harmonic landscape as if he were playing musical hopscotch. Other key moments come on “God Bless” and “Managua"--where Walton’s dancing backgrounds set the stage for his unfettered, inventive improvisation.