Jazz great Freddie Hubbard dies
LOS ANGELES - December 29, 2008 - -- Freddie Hubbard, the Grammy-winning jazz musician whose blazing virtuosity influenced a generation of trumpet players and who collaborated with such greats as Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins, died Monday, a month after suffering a heart attack. He was 70.
Hubbard died at Sherman Oaks Hospital, said his manager, fellow trumpeter David Weiss of the New Jazz Composers Octet. He had been hospitalized since suffering the heart attack a day before Thanksgiving.
A towering figure in jazz circles, Hubbard played on hundreds of recordings in a career dating to 1958, the year he arrived in New York from his hometown Indianapolis, where he had studied at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music and with the Indianapolis Symphony.
Soon he had hooked up with such jazz legends as Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley and Coltrane.
"I met Trane at a jam session at Count Basie's in Harlem in 1958," he told the jazz magazine Down Beat in 1995. "He said, `Why don't you come over and let's try and practice a little bit together.' I almost went crazy. I mean, here is a 20-year-old kid practicing with John Coltrane. He helped me out a lot, and we worked several jobs together."
In his earliest recordings, which included "Open Sesame" and "Goin' Up" for Blue Note in 1960, the influence of Davis, Chet Baker and others on Hubbard is obvious, Weiss said. But within a couple years he would develop a style all his own, one that would influence generations of musicians, including Wynton Marsalis.
"He influenced all the trumpet players that came after him," Marsalis told The Associated Press earlier this year. "Certainly I listened to him a lot. ... We all listened to him. He has a big sound and a great sense of rhythm and time and really the hallmark of his playing is an exuberance. His playing is exuberant."
Hubbard played on more than 300 recordings, including some of the most important jazz albums of the 1960s, including Herbie Hancock's "Maiden Voyage," Coleman's "Free Jazz," Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch," Coltrane's "Ascension," Wayne Shorter's "Speak No Evil" and his own classic, "Ready for Freddie."
However, he enjoyed his biggest success in the 1970s with such albums for Creed Taylor's fusion-oriented CTI label as "Red Clay" and "First Light." The latter won him a Grammy in 1972 for best jazz performance by a group.
"Freddie made popular fusion records for CTI that reached a mass audience but were still artistic and unmatched," fellow trumpeter Chris Botti said Monday.
But Hubbard did not abandon straight-ahead acoustic jazz, also performing and recording in the 1970s with the group V.S.O.P., which included the members of Miles Davis' legendary 1960s quintet - Hancock, Shorter, Ron Carter and Tony Williams.
"I've played some things that I don't think too many cats can play that are alive today," Hubbard told the AP in June when he was in New York to perform at the Iridium jazz club to celebrate the release of his last album, "On the Real Side."
"Whatever they play, it's not going to surpass that," he said of his body of work. "You see, I played like a tenor saxophone, so a lot of the things with me are kind of different, kind of hard to play."
As a young musician, Hubbard became revered among his peers for a fiery, blazing style that allowed him to hit notes higher and faster than just about anyone else with a horn. As age and infirmity began to slow that style, he switched to a softer, melodic style and played a flugelhorn.
"I think that Freddie Hubbard probably is the greatest trumpet player ever - his sound and his phrasing and his approach to the instrument. His prowess on the instrument left him in a league of his own, like a Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods in sports," Botti said.
Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born in Indianapolis on April 7, 1938. He grew up playing mellophone, trumpet and French horn.
After his early recordings for Blue Note, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers in the early 1960s, later playing in groups with Quincy Jones, George Duke and numerous others. His recordings would span such styles as bebop, fusion, free jazz and jazz-rock.
His career slowed in the 1980s, and he attributed that in part to a period of heavy drinking and partying with "the rock crowd."
In the 1990s, relentless touring, coupled with his hard style of playing, nearly ended his career when his lip became infected. He had to lay off for a period of time and eventually switch to a softer style.
"I played a very loose, elastic style of playing. I used a lot of slurs, different moves. I advise any young trumpeter not to do what I did, because that style could be hazardous to your health," he said last June.
He came back in the last decade, however, releasing "New Colors" in 2001 and "On The Real Side" in 2008, both with the New Jazz Composers Octet playing updated arrangements of some of his compositions, such as "Theme for Kareem."
A memorial tribute is planned for next month in New York.
Associated Press writer Charles J. Gans in New York contributed to this report.
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