WBGO Radar

Freddie Hendrix: Jersey Cat

Freddie Hendrix, Jersey Cat, New Jersey, Jazz, Trumpet

The “age old” question seems to always  arise: “What is the future of jazz?”  Yet there are some albums and artists that make you forget to question it. They remind you that jazz IS alive right here….right now so we better pay attention.  Freddie Hendrix’s “Jersey Cat” does just that.

 

Freddie is indeed just that, a “Jersey Cat”.  He grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey and gives us yet another reminder that New Jersey serves as home to some really great jazz legends: Count Basie, Sarah Vaughan, Wayne Shorter and more.  Coming up in Jersey, Hendrix was drawn to music genres such as R&B and doo-wop and started playing the guitar but struggled with it so, that he moved on to the trumpet.  Once he finished school, Freddie sharpened his chops by playing with popular jazz artists such as Christian McBride, Jimmy Heath as well as the Count Basie Orchestra.   His experience with the Count Basie Orchestra as well as Rufus Reid, also from Teaneck, allowed him to travel and experience a world outside of the U.S.A. and though it influenced much of his writing for this album, Freddie’s love for his home state of New Jersey and the relationships he cultivated in it, is what really made this recording come to life.

 

The talented musicians that accompany Freddie on “Jersey Cat” are fellow Jersey Cat’s themselves in one way or the other. Some were regulars at Cecil Brook III’s (now closed) Cecil’s Jazz Club in West Orange while others are former or current Jersey residents.  Speaking of Cecil Brooks III he is not only the drummer on this album but he also wears the title of producer.  Bruce Williams is on alto saxophone while Abraham Burton holds down tenor.  David Gibson is on trombone, Corcoran Holt on bass, and Brandon McCune on piano.  Each cut seems to allow you to hear the fine tune playing of each of these gentlemen without taking away from the talent of Freddie.

 

The first cut “St. Peter’s Walk”, originally written by Tex Allen, lets you know Freddie means business!  It such a swinging piece that you can’t believe it’s only the first song on the album, making you excited for more.  The energy that comes out of Freddie’s trumpet takes no prisoners and makes no apologies for it.  By the end of the piece, you know that Freddie has not only arrived, but he is here to stay.  As high as the first cut takes you, the next song “You Don’t Know What Love Is”, brings you to a place of nostalgia.  I’ve heard this classic song done in many ways yet this version has a life of its own.  As you close your eyes and start to lose yourself in the beauty of the song, you find that Freddie’s horn has the powerful yet subtle sound of a heartbeat.   He takes his time…..but doesn’t hold back, making it a listening experience you want to come back to.

 

Songs like “The Journey Man” and the title track “Jersey Cat” have a great groove to them, as you’ll realize you’re not only bopping your head, but toe tapping and finger snapping will soon follow.  In these two cuts you get a sense of Freddie’s R&B influence but it doesn’t take away from his love for the masters he obviously has respect for.  In “Journey Man” his horn takes off and reminds you of another trumpet master with the same first name.  And he pays homage to Freddie Hubbard with his version of “Hubtones”, which is fresh and hip as Hendrix puts a unique spin on it allowing his influence of hip-hop to make an appearance.  He pays tribute to other jazz legends and standards such as “Invitation” which, although inspired by Ahmad Jamal’s trio “Live at the Pershing” album,  Freddie turns into an octet performance that makes your jazz soul smile.  Horace Silver’s “Peace”, one of Freddie’s favorite ballads, will become one of yours as well…. if it isn’t already.

 

“Jersey Cat” has something for everyone. Whether you are a die-hard jazz fan or someone that is just getting familiar with the genre, Freddie puts all his musical influences into this album and makes all listeners feel welcomed.  When he grooves high he allows your musical spirit to soar, his mid-tempo cuts are perfect for any time of the day, and his ballads remind you that in life, there’s nothing like the sensuality of a slow dance.  After you take a listen to “Jersey Cat”, you’ll find it’s a CD you will keep reaching for……for many years to come.

 

 

-Nicole Sweeney / WBGO

Checkout more WBGO Radar...