Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music


HUBBARD, Freddie

(b Frederick Dewayne Hubbard, 7 April 1938, Indianapolis IN; d 29 December 2008, Sherman Oaks CA) Trumpet, flugelhorn, piano, composer. He studied French horn in high school, and won a music scholarship. Wes Montgomery was a fellow student; he played with the Montgomery brothers, Sonny Rollins, Max Roach, and on an album with Curtis Fuller, Gettin' It Together '60. He joined Art Blakey '61 and became a star of Blakey's Jazz Messengers, and one of the brightest lights of the decade with his own series of quintet/sextet albums, mostly on Blue Note, with fine sidemen: Open Sesame (with Tina Brooks), Goin' Up (with Hank Mobley) '60; Hub Cap and Ready For Freddie '61; Hub-Tones and Here To Stay (not issued at the time) '62; Breaking Point '64; Blue Spirits and two-volume live The Night Of The Cookers '65, the latter featuring side-long tunes and guest Lee Morgan: the two trumpet greats slice each other up but just as often work together. Though never an avante-gardist, Hubbard nevertheless took part as a sideman in three of the most influential projects of the era: Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz in 1960, Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch in 1964, and John Coltrane's Ascension in 1965.

He began to experiment with strings and electricity. There were an album on Fontana and two on Impulse (a sextet set and another with up to twelve pieces plus strings, arranged and conducted by Wayne Shorter). Backlash '66, High Blues Pressure '67, Soul Experiment '69 (with two guitars and electric bass) were all on Atlantic; quintet The Hub Of Hubbard on MPS was followed by Red Clay with Herbie Hancock's electric piano and Straight Life with George Benson, both '70 on CTI; Sing Me A Song Of Songmy '71 on Atlantic with a choir and strings was followed the same year by First Light on CTI with strings. Then Hubbard had his first pop chart entries, Sky Dive '72 with Keith Jarrett, Benson etc and Keep Your Soul Together '73, both on CTI, a label that actively courted a pop audience. The critics disliked these albums, or often simply ignored them. As he felt the commercial pull of fusion/electric music, Hubbard also came back to his jazz roots, as with In Concert '73 on CTI, two volumes made live at the Chicago Opera House with a conventional sextet, but this music did not make the Billboard pop album chart whether we like it or not; Hubbard's bank manager no doubt prefered the fusion. His first Columbia LP High Energy '74 made the chart, as did his last CTI albums Polar AC and a compilation, The Baddest Hubbard. Gleam '75 on CBS/Sony was made live in Japan; Liquid Love, Windjammer, Bundle Of Joy and Super Blue '75-8 on Columbia were his last pop chart entries though The Love Connection and Skagly '79 were aimed at the same audience.

During the 1970s too, Hubbard recorded with VSOP, a group with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams recreating the great Miles davis albums of a decade earlier.

In the 1980s the septet Back To Birdland on Real Time, quintet two-disc Live At The Northsea Jazz Festival on Pablo were for the jazz fans, and in general he made his way back from commercial seduction. Nonets Jazz Of The '80s (live In Japan) and Mistral (in a Hollywood studio) were both on East Wind. '81 was a busy year: Rollin' on MPS was made at the Villingen Jazz Festival with the same group (except for the drummer) as Northsea; Outpost on Enja was a quartet, his most intimate outing so far; Anthology on Black Shell was made live in Italy by a quintet. He wasn't through experimenting: Ride Like The Wind on Elektra/Musician had 14 pieces plus strings; Splash on Fantasy had a different lineup on each of seven tracks. But Keystone Bop, Classics and A Little Night Music, all on Fantasy, were made live at San Francisco's Keystone Korner by a sextet with Bobby Hutcherson and Joe Henderson, and Born To Be Blue on Pablo was made at the end of the year by a sextet with Harold Land. Face To Face '82 had Pablo regulars Oscar Peterson, Joe Pass, Niels-Henning Ørsted Pedersen and on drums Martin Drew, the house drummer at Ronnie Scott's in London. Sweet Return To Atlantic '83 had Joanne Brackeen, Roy Haynes, Eddie Gomez, Lew Tabackin on reeds and extra percussion on some tracks.

Hubbard seemed to rest for a while after '83 and no wonder, having done something for everyone. He attended the Blue Note relaunch party '85; Double Take and Eternal Triangle '85-7 were made with Woody Shaw, later combined on one CD; Life Flight '87 was easy to take, with his fat tone throughout, one side with guests George Benson, Stanley Turrentine and a fine R&B beat laid down by drummer Idris Muhammad, the other with his then working band including Larry Willis on keyboards (b 20 December 1942, d 29 September 2019), Ralph Moore on tenor, Carl Allen on drums; all on Blue Note. Bolivia also included Moore, on MusicMasters. He made quintet albums A Tribute To Miles on Who's Who in Jazz and All Blue on Jazz World, both in Poland, and Live At Fat Tuesday's on MusicMasters (with Benny Green and Christian McBride) all '91. On I Remember Miles '92 on Evidence (aka Blues For Miles) he used a mute throughout but with no effort to sound like Miles. Monk, Miles, Trane And Cannon was a multi-tribute on MusicMasters made in August '94 and early '95; then he had a terrible year with the trumpeter's nightmare: his lip gave out, and he admitted playing too hard once too often without warming up.

This is by no means a complete list of his recorded work; he had been making fans happy for a long time, one of the hardest workers in jazz, and he wasn't quite through yet. He resumed touring in 1996, having been off the road for more than a year; if he never fully regained his former facility, he could concentrate on his writing, working with the New Jazz Composer's Octet led by trumpeter David Weiss, as on New Colors in 2001. His last album, released in 2008, was On The Real Side.