DR. LARRY H. RIDLEY
Executive Director of the African American Jazz Caucus
Freddie and I grew up together in Indianapolis, IN. We began playing jazz gigs when we were teenagers. His mother and mine treated us both as their sons. Freddie's older brother, Earmon Jr., is a Bud Powell influenced pianist. He taught us a lot about chord changes and exposed us to Bud Powell, Bird, Dizzy, Clifford Brown, Miles, Art Blakey, Oscar Pettiford, Mingus and many others. "Junior". really opened our ears up to the complexity and spiritual feeling of the music. Indianapolis had a vibrant jazz scene with a lot of great musicians who took us under their wing, e.g., the Montgomery Brothers, David Baker, Slide Hampton and countless others. We both were blessed with hanging out, performing and recording with a diversity of great artists after moving to New York City. Freddie was a fiery trumpeter and composer who helped to define jazz in the 1960s. No other trumpeter played and impacted the music in so many far-reaching and innovative musical projects. He played and recorded with artists, e.g., Wes Montgomery, J.J. Johnson, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Philly Joe Jones, Max Roach, Ornette Coleman, Eric Dolphy, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, McCoy Tyner and countless others .
THE JAZZ CONTEMPORARIES
Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born April 7th 1938, in Indianapolis, Indiana. Freddie played mellophone and then trumpet in his school band, studying at the Jordan Conservatory with the principal trumpeter of the local symphony. He worked as a teenager with Wes and Monk Montgomery, and eventually founded his own first band, the Jazz Contemporaries, with bassist Larry Ridley and saxophonist James Spaulding. Moving to New York in 1958 at the age of 20, he quickly astonished fans and critics alike with the depth and maturity of his playing working with veteran jazz artists Philly Joe Jones (1958-59, 1961), Sonny Rollins (1959), Slide Hampton (1959-60), J.J. Johnson (1960), Eric Dolphy, his room-mate for 18 months, and Quincy Jones, with whom he toured Europe (1960-61). He was barely 22 when he recorded Open Sesame, his solo debut, in June 1960. That album, featuring Hank Mobley, McCoy Tyner, Paul Chambers and Philly Joe Jones, set the stage for one of the more meteoric careers in jazz.
Within the next 10 months, Hubbard recorded his second album, Goin' Up, with the same personnel as his first, and a third, Hub Cap, with Julian Priester and Jimmy Heath. Four months later, in August 1961, he made what many consider his masterpiece, Ready For Freddie, which was also his first Blue Note collaboration with Wayne Shorter. That same year, he joined Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers (replacing Lee Morgan). Freddie had quickly established himself as an important new voice in jazz. While earning a reputation as a hard-blowing young lion, he had developed his own sound, distancing himself from the early influence of Clifford Brown and Miles Davis and won Down Beat's "New Star" award on trumpet.
He remained with Blakey until 1966, leaving to form his own small groups, which over the next few years featured Kenny Barron and Louis Hayes. Throughout the 60s he also played in bands led by others, including Max Roach and Herbie Hancock. Hubbard was a significant presence on Herbie Hancock's Blue Note recordings beginning with the pianist's debut as a leader, Takin' Off, and continuing on Empyrean Isles and Maiden Voyage. He was also featured on four classic 60s sessions: Ornette Coleman's Free Jazz, Oliver Nelson's Blues And The Abstract Truth, Eric Dolphy's Out To Lunch!, and John Coltrane's Ascension during that time.
Freddie achieved his greatest popular success in the 1970s with a series of crossover albums on CTI Records. Although his early 70s jazz albums Red Clay, First Light and Straight Life were particularly well received (First Light won a Grammy Award), this period saw Hubbard emulating Herbie Hancock and moving into jazz fusions. However, he sounded much more at ease in the hard bop context of his 1977 tour with the V.S.O.P. quintet, the band which retraced an earlier quintet led by Miles Davis and brought together ex-Davis sidemen Hancock, Hayes, Wayne Shorter and Ron Carter, with Hubbard taking the Davis role. In the 80s Hubbard was again leading his own jazz group, attracting very favourable notices for his playing at concerts and festivals in the USA and Europe, often in the company of Joe Henderson, playing a repertory of hard-bop and modal-jazz pieces.. He played with Woody Shaw, recording with him in 1985, and two years later recorded Stardust with Benny Golson. In 1988 he teamed up once more with Blakey at an engagement in Holland, from which came Feel The Wind. In 1990 he appeared in Japan headlining an American-Japanese concert package which also featured Elvin Jones, Sonny Fortune, pianists George Duke and Benny Green, bass players Carter and Rufus Reid and singer Salena Jones.
An exceptionally talented virtuoso performer, Hubbard's rich full tone is never lost, even when he plays dazzlingly fast passages. As one of the greatest of hard bop trumpeters, he contrives to create impassioned blues lines without losing the contemporary context within which he plays. Although his periodic shifts into jazz-rock have widened his audience, he is at his best playing jazz. He continues to mature, gradually leaving behind the spectacular displays of his early years, replacing them with a more deeply committed jazz.