Archive for January 2, 2009

Freddie Hubbard

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , on January 2, 2009 by telescoper

A few days ago I heard of the death at the age of 70 of the legendary jazz trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard. He had been ill for some time and had been in hospital in Los Angeles after having a heart attack about a month ago. His death closes a brilliant chapter in the book of American Jazz, as Freddie Hubbard was last survivor of triumvirate of brilliant young trumpeters who revitalised the jazz scene of the late 50s and provided an alternative direction to that of Miles Davis. The other members of this trio were Booker Little (died of kidney failure in 1961, aged 23) and Lee Morgan (shot to death in 1972, aged 33). Stylistically these players were descended from the great Clifford Brown who also died tragically young (in a car accident in 1956 at the age of 25), but Freddie Hubbard was the only one to achieve some measure of physical longevity alongside a longlasting musical reputation.

One of the first modern jazz albums I ever bought (Herbie Hancock’s Takin’ Off), featured Freddie Hubbard with Dexter Gordon on tenor sax. His solo on the track Watermelon Man is rightly acknowledged as a classic and it remains one of my absolute favourite trumpet solos to this day. In a completely different style, but also on the famous Blue Note label, he played with the outrageously brilliant Eric Dolphy on the pioneering free jazz album Out to Lunch.

I’ve been meaning to put something up about Eric Dolphy for some time because I think of him as an utter genius, but that will have to wait. I will, however, carry on in a somewhat morbid vein to point out that he died aged 36 in 1964 of diabetic shock while on tour in Berlin. He had collapsed onstage after taking an incorrect insulin dose and was taken to hospital. The doctors there, however, had no idea he was diabetic and assumed he had taken a drug overdose and failed to take the simple course of action that would have saved his life.

Freddie Hubbard was a versatile and virtuosic player, who played on a staggering number of the greatest jazz records of his time. That’s what you have to do to become a legend. I think he will probably be best remembered for the driving hard-bop style exemplified by drummer Art Blakey‘s magnificent band The Jazz Messengers, which Freddie joined in 1961 after replacing Lee Morgan as the trumpeter. This band survived many incarnations until the leader died in 1990. I saw them play live in 1980 and they were terrific.

Here they are in 1961, just after Freddie joined them, on a live version of the classic Moanin’ with Cedar Walton on piano, Curtis Fuller on trombone and Wayne Shorter on tenor sax.