written by Robert J. Carmack #@blues2jazzguy
As this writer was trying to decide on subjects and artists to write about during Jazz appreciation month, “Hubb”, BKA Freddie Hubbard, came into my mind
It’s not easy to write about an eclectic figure like Frederick Dewayne Hubbard. So I’m just going to go against all traditional musings about Hubbard, as viewed by the “jazz-elite”press corps.
I’m more inclined with the hip crowd of admirers and fans that marvel over the fire, passion and gymnastics. He had all that going for him, that flowed from his body like sweat on a star athlete having a two-hundred rushing yards day, or a 50 point basketball night.
I was first introduced to “Freddie” on Herbie Hancock’s fourth album on Blue Note, Empyrean Isles,1964. At the time, I was studying music and saxophone. First, I was drawn into the groove of Cantaloupe Island, but, as I listened more to the whole album, I became impressed with the trumpeter.
He didn’t sound like any of the other trumpeters of the era I’d been listening to, like Miles, Donald Byrd, Nat Adderley, Dizzy or Clark Terry. It was Hubbard’s dexterity and mastery of his horn, plus, the “swag” and POWER! To coin another sports phrase, Freddie was like a Powerback among a field of average running-backs. He hit a little harder than the others. Man.. those “runs” and glass-shattering high notes that seem to flow so easily from Hubb.
I had not even seen Freddie live yet until , early 1967. He was touring with a concept co-op band called ,the Jazz Communicators. It included Joe Henderson, Herbie Lewis, Kenny Barron, and Mr. straight-ahead himself, Louis Hayes.
One day while lunching at school, a few of the cats from the school jazz band and myself agreed to catch this group over the weekend. since they were appearing at the famous Lighthouse Jazz café in Hermosa Beach, a local venue inside the metro los Angeles area. We were so anxious, or, I was at least. I could hardly get through the week doing my homework and band practice.
Friday finally arrived , and we got such an early start ,we were the first ones to arrive at the club as only the workers were coming to punch-in for work that night . The anticipation of that frontline was just overwhelming to us. Wow ! Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard. We decided to walk around to kill some time. one of the guys brought a joint that was rather poorly rolled in wheat straw papers and looked pregnant. (Lol) so, we veered down to the far end of the Pier, away from prying-eyes. The five of us proceeded to enjoy the libations, though it was quite comical in our inexperience in these type matters.. the real comedy came as we began to experience the mini-explosions of burning seeds and stems as we laughed uncontrollably until we finished it. Then, walking back to the front door , we were met by the ever-smiling Bassist/Manager, Howard Rumsey. He just said, as we came in, “You Cats know the rules ,so enjoy yourselves.. We took our “up-close seats” and ordered our “soft Cokes,” with strange assortments of cherries, limes and oranges garnishing the glass . that made us feel like, we were fitting-in with the very hip and rather chatty crowd. Without any further delay, Howard came over the loudspeaker, “Ladies and Gentlemen, the Jazz Communicators!”
Bam!. Right out the gate Freddie Hubbard kicked off a Jazz Messengers favorite and, Hubbard’s standard, “Crisis”. I don’t know what its like to ride a bull in a rodeo, but I do know what its like to punch a super-charged Corvette Sting-Ray for the first time.. Zero to 60 in a matter of a few seconds. with my heart and my “stones” jumping out of my body. That’s what it was like with Freddie and Joe opening with a slightly faster version of Crisis. He played, I listened to his very powerful playing up-close and personal. He took at least six courses. OMG!! I had no idea.
The Power, the flow of ideas, trills ,choke notes Highs-lows ascending-descending, those long lung-busting phrases. Oh yeah, those little counter-melodies and rich harmonics,chock full of surprise quotes from classic tunes fused in-between, the sinewy side-bar lines Freddie is known for as a signature.
Joe Henderson’s solo was no less electrifying as only Joe could do. Quick power phrases, built on Flat fives and 9s..squawks,growls followed by machine gun like notes pouring out of his horn, riding the rhythm and comping by Louis Hayes and a young Kenny Barron. All held together by the “glue” of bassist Herbie Lewis.
I had seen lots of groups come to the lighthouse ,but this was a special night. Unbelievable on many levels to this writer. First, The group kept elevating, We stayed from the first to the last set and there were no “Let-Ups” in intensity. Second..I never forgot that evening’s performances. Third, Here it is now 50+ years later, and I’m still remembering it as if, it was only yesterday.
A couple of us guys that’s still here often reflect on that evening’s fun and camaraderie.. But, the artistry of Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson,Kenny Barron, Herbie Lewis and Louis Hayes still DISTRIBUTE GOOD THOUGHTS IN GREAT TIMES, IN OUR HEADS.
July 2003, I was producer/MC for a Jazz series in San Francisco-Knob Hill project called “Celebrate a Legend-Jazz In July” a month long 7 days a week series featuring Freddie Hubbard, Freddie Coles, Vanessa Rubin, Doug Carn, Sonny Fortune, Andy Bey, Calvin Keyes, to name a few. All participating and receiving lifetime achievement awards. We brought in Freddie special for five days, even surprising Freddie with an old friend in Billy Paul making an cameo performance of the “Old folk”. During the course of the five days , I had my hands full with “Hubb just being Hubb”.. some of you will know what I mean..(smile) But at the end of the day, I felt blessed from the thought of coming from a 15 year old kid in a school band practice room, trying to understand all of what was happening on the “Night of the Cookers” album. Then, flash forwarded to 2003, and i’m now booking and presenting Freddie Hubbard to a hip and sophisticated San Francisco audience. a real dream deferred!
Freddie Hubbard was many things to many people including a husband, a father, and a human being with warts and all that comes with that too. Most importantly, he had the respect of his family, friends and fans alike. Certainly mine. I miss Hubb on the scene with all his swag, panache with that biting humor of his.
I’m remembering, Federick Dwayne Hubbard April 7 1938 – December 29 2008.