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In the pantheon of jazz trumpeters, Freddie Hubbard stands as one of the boldest and most inventive artists of the bop, hard-bop and post-bop eras. Although influenced by titans like Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, Hubbard ultimately forged his own unique sound – a careful balance of bravado and subtlety that fueled more than fifty solo recordings and countless collaborations with some of the most prominent jazz artists of his era. Shortly after his death at the end of 2008, Down Beat called him “the most powerful and prolific trumpeter in jazz.” Embedded in his massive body of recorded work is a legacy that will continue influence trumpeters and other jazz artists for generations to come.
Hubbard was born on
Hubbard’s budding musical talents caught the attention of Lee Katzman, a former sideman of Stan Kenton. Katzman convinced the young trumpeter to study at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music with Max Woodbury, the principal trumpeter of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.
As a teenager, Hubbard worked and recorded with the Montgomery Brothers – Wes, Monk and Buddy. His first recording session was for an album called The
In 1958, Hubbard moved to
Per a recommendation from Miles Davis, Hubbard was signed to Blue Note, where he recorded Open Sesame, his solo debut, in 1960 at the age of 22. The album, which also featured Tina Brooks and McCoy Tyner, marked the launch of one of the most meteoric careers in jazz. Within a year’s time, Hubbard followed up with his second and third recordings – Goin’ Up (1960), with Tyner and Hank Mobley, and Hub Cap (1961), with Julian Priester and Jimmy Heath.
In 1961, Hubbard released what many consider to be his masterpiece, Ready For Freddie, which marked his first Blue Note collaboration with Wayne Shorter. Later that same year, he joined Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers. In the span of a few short years, this hard-blowing young lion had quickly established himself as an important new voice in jazz.
Hubbard left the Jazz Messengers in 1964 to form his own small group, whose ranks included Kenny Barron and Louis Hayes. Throughout the remainder of the decade, he also played in bands led by a variety of other high-profile jazz artists. He was a significant presence on Herbie Hancock’s Blue Note recordings, beginning with Takin’ Off (1962) – Hancock’s debut as a leader – and continuing on Empyrean Isles (1964) and Maiden Voyage (1965). Hubbard’s other noteworthy session work in the 1960s included Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz (1960), Oliver Nelson’s The Blues and the Abstract Truth (1961), Eric Dolphy’s Out To Lunch (1964), and John Coltrane’s Ascension (1965).
He achieved his greatest popular success in the 1970s with a series of crossover albums on
As the ‘80s got under way, Hubbard was once again leading his own group, playing at concerts and festivals in the
In 1990, he appeared in
Other pursuits in the early ‘90s included the formation of a new band of emerging young artists: Christian McBride, Javon Jackson, Carl Allen and Benny Green. He continued to seek out fresh young talent as the decade unfolded by collaborating with the New Jazz Composers Octet. Hubbard performed and recorded with the Octet – a collective led by fellow trumpeter David Weiss – for the last decade of his career, culminating with his final recording, On The Real Side, released in 2008.
Despite failing health as the new century got under way, Hubbard continued to carry the jazz torch by participating in clinics and residencies at various colleges around the country to share the wealth of his knowledge with up-and-coming artists. In 2006, the National Endowment for the Arts granted Hubbard its highest honor in jazz, the NEA Jazz Masters Award.
He suffered a heart attack in late November 2008 in Sherman Oaks, California, and died a few weeks later, on December 29, at the age of 70.
At his peak, Freddie Hubbard was a brilliant virtuoso performer with a rich, full tone that remained consistent in slow passages as well as fast ones. As one of the greatest hard-bop trumpeters of his era, he created impassioned blues lines without sacrificing the context of the music he was playing. He was perhaps one of the greatest technical trumpeters ever to play in the jazz idiom, and arguably the most influential.
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