Freddie Hubbard, Jazz Trumpet Great, RIP

Frederick Dewayne (“Freddie”) Hubbard, one of the great American jazz trumpeters, died on December, 29 2008 at the age of 70. He will be missed.

Hubbard was an exponent of the so-called bebop and hard bop schools of jazz. He played with a number of jazz greats, from drummer Art Blakey to saxaphonist John Coltrane to pianist Herbie Hancock. His wikipedia entry gives a very good summary of his life and work.

(I sometimes hear the question, what is bop/bebop/hard bop? I am no expert on this, but here’s how I look at it. When jazz became a unique art form in the first half of the 20th century, it was mainly dance music. The rhythms and melodies were made to help dancers keep in step/rhythm with the beat.

Bop-style music still had a beat, but it wasn’t necessarily dance music, and lots of bop isn’t even dance-able (think John Coltrane). Bop is built a lot around jazz solos and improvisation. One way to tell early non-bop jazz from bop jazz is to listen to the bass player. In early jazz, the bass players pretty much plays a steady, uniform rhythm throughout piece. But in bop, the bass plays rhythmically, but not uniformly; the chords can go all over place, as the bass player helps to push the soloist through the music.

Or something like that.)

Freddie Hubbard was a favorite, perhaps the favorite, jazz musician of mine as I was grew up in New York City during the late sixties and early seventies. His trumpet solo on Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage, from the album of the same name, is still like a gourmet dish to my ears. And his early work with Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers is still a thrill to listen to.

Here are two videos featuring Hubbard. The first is from a Jazz Messengers re-union perfromance, with the band performing the tune A La Mode for a German TV special in 1989 celebrating Art Blakey’s 70th birthday. The band includes Freddie Hubbard and Terence Blanchard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter and Benny Golson on tenor sax, Jackie McLean on alto sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Walter Davis Jr. on piano, Buster Williams on bass, and Roy Haynes on drums. Art Blakey can be seen in the background, with a medium sized silver afro.

Hubbard plays the second trumpet solo.

The second video is from a 1984 live performance with the Jazz Messengers, with Art Blakey doing the drums. The band also includes Benny Golson on tenor sax, Curtis Fuller on trombone, Walter Davis Jr on piano, and Buster Williams on bass.

The tune is called I Remember Clifford, and is an ode to another jazz great, trumpeter Clifford Brown.

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