The Hubbard original "Arietis" opens the recording with authority. Over a solid foundation maintained by the busy Davis and Jones, Hubbard takes the first solo, a stream that is breathtaking in its execution, though even moreso for the process of thought inherent in that construction. Though he remained a well regarded giant of jazz for decades beyond this, his quick witted conceptualization and equally dazzling technique makes his playing here among the most brilliant I have heard in the 25 years I have been writing about this music. Shorter’s playing is up to the demands of the piece, and McKinney’s euphonium solo is absolutely superb. The following version of "Weaver of Dreams" is the standout piece on the date. A melodic opening section by Hubbard and Shorter leads into Hubbard’s crisp, emotive trumpet solo. Throughout, Elvin Jones plays brushes, sometimes heavy-handed, lending a distant sort of backbeat to the tune. This continues through the brief Tyner solo and Hubbard’s extended run. The layering effect is fascinating.
The uptempo "Marie Antoinette" is highlighted by a superb Wayne Shorter solo. It is interesting to read the original liner notes make reference to these jazz giants as being among the cream of the youngsters coming up at the time. Shorter’s presence was commanding even then, as was that of young Art Davis, who delivers wonderfully executed supportive lines. "Birdlike" is an appropriately titled piece that evokes Charlie Parker, both in the phraseology and in the setting- up of unison trumpet/sax lines that break into extended solos, ala Bird and Diz or Bird and Miles. The interplay between Shorter and Hubbard is frequently more out of the Clifford Brown/Lee Morgan school. The two were working with Blakey at the time of this recording, and were clearly tuned in to each other.
"Crisis" has an interesting motif. 16 bars with the first 12 played quietly, followed by four at a frenzied pace. This was to approximate the feeling of the fear of "the bomb" that permeated much of late 1950s and early 1960s public consciousness. The effect is chilling and wholly captivating.
As is the case with all of the classic Blue Note reissues, the original liner notes (in this case from the insightful Nat Hentoff) and covers with Francis Wolf photos are reproduced. Bob Blumethal offers some thoughts on the disc from the perspective of 40 years distance in a brief updated liner note. A classic then, and still the most impressive from the outstanding Freddie Hubbard catalog.