RIP- Freddie Hubbard

I was so sad this morning to learn of the death of Freddie Hubbard from Doug Ramsey at Rifftides, who has an excellent remembrance here.  

Hubbard was one of the last of the true giants of jazz history still with us, a man whose career spanned epoch after epoch, and whose virtuosity, bravado and creativity shone through in a huge variety of styles.

Hubbard was in some sense unlucky to spend his career in the shadow of two other trumpet giants- in his early years, he could not escape comparison with Clifford Brown, who was indeed a huge influence. However, had Brown not died so young, I believe he and Hubbard would have gone on to look more like peers than master and student, and hopefully to record extensively together.

In fact, Hubbard, one of the most macho of players (in the best sense of the world), was a rare figure in the jazz trumpet world in that he seemed to love to share the spotlight with his fellow horn players. His recordings with the great Lee Morgan are memorable, as was his work with Wood Shaw, particularly on the joyous Eternal Triangle album.

One trumpet player he didn’t work with was the other whose career in some ways obscured critics from a fuller understanding of Hubbard’s genius- Miles Davis. Miles’ accomplishments as a band leader, composer, trend setter and innovator overshadow those of just about any musician in the 20th c., but Hubbard could certainly stand toe-to-toe with him as an improviser, and was without doubt the more gifted trumpet player. Miles once caustically called Hubbard “that guy who plays like me,” but to whatever extent they shared some of the same language, Hubbard’s work as stand in for Miles with the reunited lineup of his classic 60’s band under the name “VSOP” (Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Herbie Hancock and Tony Williams) was so fierce and passionate that nobody came away from their performances missing Miles.

I’ll be putting my LP of Straight Life on this afternoon- it’s possibly the funkiest record ever made, just another side of a great musician’s range.

NYT Obit here-

YouTube has this great clip of VSOP (Joe Henderson instead of Wayne on sax)

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About the author

American conductor, composer and cellist Kenneth Woods is Principal Conductor of the English Symphony Orchestra, Artistic Director of the Colorado MahlerFest and cellist of the string trio Ensemble Epomeo. He records for the Avie, Somm, Nimbus, Signum, MSR and Toccata labels.

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