100 Jazz Profiles
1938 - 2008
Trumpeter. Born into a musical family, Hubbard was swift to become a musician himself, by following the example of his piano playing mother and sister, and his saxophonist and pianist brothers. At first, his career was centred on his home town.
He played mellophone and then trumpet in his school band, took lessons from the principal trumpeter in the local symphony orchestra, and eventually founded his own first band, the Jazz Contemporaries, with bassist Larry Ridley and saxophonist James Spaulding.
In due course, Freddie took the route that all aspiring jazz players followed in the 1950s, and arrived in New York. Immediately he began playing in the fastest company in the Big Apple. He worked with Sonny Rollins, J. J. Johnson and Quincy Jones among others, but he made his mark on the international scene during his three years with Blakey from 1961-4.
It was Eric Dolphy who joined him as an additional member of Ornette Coleman's Double Quartet for the controversial album Free Jazz in 1960, which marked Hubbard out as a player who could work in the free environment as well as amid conventional chord structures.
As the 1960s went on, Hubbard was involved in several other experimental projects that were at the cutting edge of jazz, including Oliver Nelson's Blues and The Abstract Truth, and John Coltrane's Ascension. After leaving Art Blakey, Hubbard not only cut some exceptional albums of his own, having moved by this period to the Atlantic label, but appeared as the trumpeter on several of Herbie Hancock's most famous Blue Note sessions, including Maiden Voyage and Empyrean Isles.
In 1992, he injured his lip and returned to professional playing rather too soon, which gave him continued embouchure difficulties and set off a train of further health problems, but in 2001 he began to record again, and to play once more at the level of an international soloist. Hubbard's other huge importance to jazz is as a composer.
Since the early 1960s he has continued to produce numbers that have been taken up by other players, and acquired the status of jazz standards. Early pieces like Outer Forces, Prophet Jennings and Hub-Tones have been followed by Bird-Like, D Minor Mint, and Down Under, not to mention waltzes like Up Jumped Spring, all of which have made hima central figure in the world of post-bop jazz.
Art Taylor: Notes and Tones - Musician to Musician Interviews. (New York, Da Capo, 1993).
The Best of Freddie Hubbard - The Blue Note Years (Blue Note CDP 2 93202-2)
Anthology covering all Hubbard's work for the Blue Note label, from his early triumphs such as Ready For Freddie, through to material from his albums Blue Spirits and Hub Cap. Also includes material from his return to the label in the 1980s with a blistering pair of duets with Woody Shaw.
Ornette Coleman: Free Jazz (Atlantic 781347)
Controversial double quartet of free improvisation from the iconoclastic Coleman, with Hubbard's robust style contrasting with the more oblique approach of Coleman's regular front line partner Don Cherry.
Herbie Hancock: Maiden Voyage (Blue Note 746339)
One of Hancock's greatest discs - a "concept album" before its time - which puts Hubbard and George Coleman alongside the great Miles Davis rhythm section of Carter, Hancock and Williams.
John Coltrane: Ascension (Impulse)
The most controversial of Coltrane's mid-60s recordings with Hubbard alongside the lesser trumpeting talent of Dewey Johnson. He produces forceful solos, but they have an innate grace and form that contrasts to the wilder style of saxophonists Archie Shepp and Pharoah Sanders.
on radio 3
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