Billy Joel (featuring Freddie Hubbard): Zanzibar
Billy Joel (vocals, acoustic piano, electric keyboards, synthesizers)
52nd Street (CK 69385)
Richie Cannata (sax, clarinet, organ), Mike Mainieri (vibes, marimba), Steve Khan (guitar), Doug Stegmeyer (bass), Liberty Devitto (drums).
Composed by Billy Joel.
Rating: 88/100 (learn more)
The storyline is that Billy Joel went for a jazzier approach on 52nd Street, the chart-topping sequel to his breakout The Stranger. In reality, he made only some nods in that general direction on three or four cuts, because Billy Joel was/is an unabashed pop practitioner of the grandiose style.
One of those nods came on "Zanzibar," which has more going on under the hood melodically than the showy confection of tracks extracted for radio play. While Joel sings that he's "got a jazz guitar," he does not play one. Instead, he lets Freddie Hubbard play a jazz trumpet. Good move.
Also a good move is shifting the song from a mid-tempo rocker to double-time, bass-walking classic bop for the trumpeter. Hubbard gets not one but two of these instrumental breaks. He does nothing in these brief interludes but cook and glide through the changes in his trademark virtuoso style.
Hubbard's appearance on a Billy Joel song isn't as unforgettable as Phil Woods's because his solo doesn't blend into the overall song as effectively. But Freddie was well worth creating the space for.
Reviewer: S. Victor Aaron