V.S.O.P. The Quintet: Red Clay
V.S.O.P. The Quintet
Tempest in the Colosseum (Columbia COL 471062 2)
Composed by Freddie Hubbard.
Recorded: Tokyo, July 23, 1977
Rating: 94/100 (learn more)
A strange but predictable thing happened to fusion during the 1970s. Corporate know-nothings decided it should have a broader commercial audience. They believed that any complicated music or material that required even a modicum of thought was noncommercial. The only way to increase sales was to sign acts that would play watered-down fusion and to ask current roster members to do the same. Many artists were more than happy to oblige. Ironically, it was this business decision that eventually led to Smooth Jazz. (Pardon me while I gag.)
Not all musicians succumbed to the industry pressure. But the nature of the jazz-rock business changed. People grew tired of the new fusion that now had a terrible sameness to it. Some even longed for acoustic jazz. Under these circumstances V.S.O.P. was formed by some of our finest jazz musicians. Each had also played an important role in fusion, but this was a back-to-basics jazz outfit presenting an acoustic mix of standards and new compositions.
V.S.O.P. (Very Special One-time Performance) was an outstanding band. Freddie Hubbard's seminal "Red Clay" – originally recorded on CTI with both Hancock and Carter joining leader Hubbard – is reinterpreted before a knowing and appreciative Japanese audience. This is a very fine arrangement and performance. Atop a rolling Tony Williams percussion pastiche, Hubbard and Shorter hint at the melody in an opening exposition. The tune's famous bassline riff enters to applause. Hubbard and Shorter double on the melody. Fantastic stuff! Hubbard's solo is high-pitched, punchy and energetic. He finishes. Major applause erupts. Shorter is more restrained at first. Soon he is yelping. Hancock is typically lyrical during his turn, eventually leading us back to those wonderful and unforgettable Carter bass riffs.
V.S.O.P. released its previous two records in the USA. This record was initially released in Japan only. Why they did that, I don't know. But I do know it was damn good music.
Reviewer: Walter Kolosky