Essentials of a Jazz Trumpeter

As a trumpeter, Freddie Hubbard seemed to have it all. A fully trained musician at a young age, he could do the really difficult and technical stuff with apparent ease – like the warp-speed stratospheric melodies that would make most other trumpet players bleed the lips – and yet could play slow and slow ballads. painfully romantic with a rich, full-bodied tone. He was, in some ways, like his idols Gillespie dizzy and Miles davis rolled into one. But from the start of his career, he showed that he possessed qualities that made him unique. “I just think he was in a class on his own,” Hubbard’s friend bassist Ron Carter once told me.

Hubbard’s career began in earnest when he arrived in New York City from Indianapolis like a whirlwind in 1958. Although he quickly became a rising star of the Big Apple hard bop scene – via a series of Stunning solo albums for iconic label Blue Note as well as recordings with drummer Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers – he was at home in a range of different musical settings. He appeared on some of the most progressive and revolutionary records in jazz in the early 1960s – including Ornette Coleman‘s Free Jazz and Eric Dolphy‘s Breakfast – and in the 70s he traveled in a more commercial direction embracing funk, fusion and pop before returning to acoustic jazz in his twilight years.

Containing over 60 solo albums, Hubbard’s catalog has so many great records that if you’re new to it, it’s hard to know where to find an entry point. That’s why we’ve compiled this intro to the best songs from Freddie Hubbard, the man they called “The Hub”.

Listen to the best Freddie Hubbard songs on Apple Music and Spotify.

Freddie Hubbard in the early 1960s

Frederick Dwayne Hubbard was born in Indianapolis in 1938 and began playing the trumpet in church as a child. Although he was classically trained and performed in a junior symphony orchestra, his heart was to become a jazz musician, and in 1958 he began to make his mark on the Indianapolis scene, making his recording debut. with an up and coming local band called the Montgomery Brothers (which included the guitar feel Wes montgomery).

Shortly thereafter, Hubbard, 20, emigrated to New York City where his bravery horn playing quickly gained attention and led to Open Sesame, his first album for Blue Note, the homeland of hard bop, a catchy jazz style inspired by blues and gospel music. Released in 1960, the LP featured the saxophonist Tina brooks, who wrote the ensemble’s classic title tune, a slice of Iberian-flavored hard bop where Hubbard’s long solo is not only breathtaking, but also indicative of his incredible endurance.

Hubbard was prolific on Blue Note and among his best tracks for the label was “Crisis,” allegedly inspired by escalating Cold War tensions and the threat of nuclear armageddon. He first recorded the melody on the 1961 Jazz Messengers LP. Mosaic and shortly after on his solo album Ready for Freddie, which featured a brilliant trumpet solo of dazzling liquid flows and rising high notes. On the luminous ballad “Weaver Of Dreams” from the same album, Hubbard showed that he could blow the horn with unparalleled sensitivity and technical brilliance.

Although much of Hubbard’s production Blue Note adhered to the hard bop pattern, it showed a more progressive side on the top 1964 LP. Breaking point!, which was also her first album consisting entirely of self-written material. The title track, dominated by Hubbard’s forage horn, contrasted bold avant-garde passages with upbeat calypso music, while “Mirrors” – written by then-trumpeter Joe Chambers – was a slow, thoughtful piece. where Hubbard impresses by using fewer notes; its eloquent horn mixed with the dancing flute of James Spaulding.

The man on the prolific side

During his tenure at Blue Note, Freddie Hubbard was also in high demand as a session player. Recorded just after his first session for Alfred Lion’s label, The blues and abstract truth from saxophonist / composer / arranger Oliver Nelson was an album on the new band Impulse! label which showed the astonishing virtuosity of Hubbard, in particular on the superb track “Stolen Moments”.

But most of Hubbard’s sideman appearances were recorded by many other Blue Note artists. His improvised solo on Dexter Gordon‘s “Society Red” (from the saxophonist’s 1961 album I’m fine) lasts two and a half minutes and while he’s incredibly athletic, it also reflects Hubbard’s instinctive blues mastery.

One of Hubbard’s most famous solos as a sideman was on Herbie Hancockthe first LP of 1962 Lift-off, where he delivered a knockout improvisation on the pianist’s catchy soul-jazz number “watermelon man. He begins his solo slowly before increasing the aural excitement with a mix of rumbling vibrato figures, jerky hits and screaming high notes. Hubbard contributed another memorable solo on a later Hancock LP, 1965 Groundbreaking trip, where it takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster on the title track, with long, sweet notes giving way to extravagant and stronger feverish flourishes.

No review of Hubbard’s sideman sessions would be complete without mentioning his fate in The Jazz Messengers, drummer. Art Blakey“Hard Bop Academy”, a graduation school for jazz musicians which the trumpeter joined in 1961 to replace another boy prodigy, Lee Morgan. The title track from the band’s 1963 album “Ugetsu”, written by the band’s pianist, Cedar Walton, was recorded live in Japan. Hubbard’s solo is a thing of beauty, defined by floating chromatic tremolos, melodic whirlpools and piercing riffs. In the 1970s, he recorded it again under two different titles; “Fantasy In D” and “Polar AC”.

Experiences of the late 1960s

In the latter half of the 1960s, Freddie Hubbard’s music was very diverse, ranging from contagious soul-jazz grooves to avant-garde experimental soundscapes. One of his most accessible pieces from this period is the tune that became his signature number, “Little Sunflower”, a soft soulful groove cut in 1967 that he also revisited in 1979 with singer Al Jarreau. (Hubbard also played the trumpet on a terrific 1973 version by vibraphonist Milt Jackson, then his label mate at CTI Records).

More extreme but very revealing of Hubbard’s desire to venture outside his hard bop comfort zone is the haunting “Monodrama”, taken from the trumpeter’s provocative 1969 album. Sing me a songmy song, a collaboration with the Turkish composer İlhan Mimaroǧlu. Subtitle A fantasy for the electromagnetic band, the LP tackled topics such as the Vietnam War, racism, and the Charles Manson murder of Hollywood star Sharon Tate while framing Hubbard’s horn with skillfully constructed mosaics that wove spoken narratives, choir fragments and concrete music.

The 70s: From funk to fusion via pop

Freddie Hubbard started the 1970s with a bang, recording Red clay, his first album for CTI, the independent label of producer Creed Taylor. The classic title track, which begins with an explosive wave of sound, then transforms into a funky groove where Hubbard and saxophonist Junior Cook strike up a plaintive theme over Lenny White’s metronomic drums and Herbie Hancock’s Rhodes piano.

In 1972, Hubbard broadened his sonic horizons by embarking on an ambitious orchestral project called First light with Taylor at the helm; Featuring opulent strings and brass by arranger Don Sebesky, the album’s Latin-tinged title track won Hubbard his first and only Grammy award. The album also produced the ballad “Yesterday’s Dreams,” where Hubbard used a muted effect on his horn to emphasize the melancholy aura of melancholy in the air. “He had the ability to instantly realize what he was thinking in his mind,” said Don Sebesky, the arranger of First light, told this writer in 2009, praising the genius of Hubbard for improvisation. “There was no lag between his technique and his ideas, so he was fearless.”

Hubbard’s stylistic trajectory changed after his arrival on the affluent major label Columbia in 1974, although his production, especially his alliances with pop and fusion, was rarely critical success. But he did record some outstanding tunes for the label during this time, exemplified by the album’s shimmering, Latin nocturnal “Ebony Moonbeams,” written by Hubbard pianist George Cables. High energy, and the epic “Kunte”, percussion, a juggernaut with African flavors where Hubbard used wild echo effects to intensify the drama of his soaring solo.

Although his album produced by Bob James Windjammer from 1976, heralded by most jazz critics for his pop content and commercial aspirations, he gave us the fabulously energetic “Neo Terra”, where Hubbard shows why he was revered as a horn player; it blows a shattering horn solo over a percolating funk groove colored with flute arabesques and slender strings.

Freddie Hubbard’s Last Years

In 1982, Freddie Hubbard released Born to be blue, which marked his return to hard bop. He opened with a Latinized overhaul of “Gibraltar,” a song he had first released nine years earlier on the album. In Concert – Volume One with saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. The air is a supercharged vehicle for searing trumpet improvisation, where Hubbard unleashes dazzling arpeggios, slalom twists and groaning glissando effects.

Later in the 1980s, Hubbard returned to Blue Note; and the self-written title track from his 1987 album Theft of life with his mix of exuberance, athleticism and melodic bluster showed the 49-year-old trumpeter sounding as good as ever. He was also in great shape on “The Moontrane”, in a duet with the songwriter, his fellow trumpeter Woody Shaw, on their collaborative project. The eternal triangle.

In 1993, Hubbard injured his lip while playing the trumpet, which later became infected. This put him out of action for a while and caused him to modify his playing technique. Despite this, he made a comeback in 2007, but a year later died of a heart attack in the age of 70.

With a rich legacy of several classic albums featuring many amazing performances, Freddie Hubbard was a phenomenal force of nature whose place is assured in the pantheon of jazz greats of all time. Build on the foundations that Louis armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Clifford brown had posed before him, he redefined the virtuosity of the trumpet by taking musical skill to a new and often breathtaking level.

Think we missed one of Freddie Hubbard’s best songs? Let us know in the comments below.


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Grace D. Erickson