R.I.P.: Freddie Hubbard, 70
Freddie Hubbard died today at Sherman Oaks Hospital as a result of a heart attack suffered in late November. His name might not blow up the same marquee lights as that of the late Eartha Kitt, whom we lost on Christmas Day, but anyone who cultivates even a passing interest in jazz certainly knows Hubbard's swift, mercury-smooth trumpet sound, whether they realize it or not.
A sideman for Sonny Rollins and Art Blakey, Hubbard did some of his most masterful work with the '60s avant-garde crowd, including Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch," John Coltrane's "Ascension" and Ornette Coleman's masterful group improvisation "Free Jazz." Perhaps as a result of such a track record, Hubbard's recordings as a band leader may have been a bit overshadowed, but his soul-jazz leaning '70s work on "Red Clay" and "Straight Life" are well worth investigating. In an interview with the Associated Press earlier this year, Wynton Marsalis described Hubbard's bright tone on trumpet and flugelhorn as "exuberant," and the track "Mr. Clean" from "Straight Life" is a captivating example.
Note: By popular demand, here's another excellent example of Hubbard's work, a fairly bonkers, 18-minute live version of "Red Clay," a bonus track from the 1970 album of the same name. At about the 13 minute mark you get a good idea of what we're missing having lost Freddie Hubbard. >> Listen here
-- Chris Barton
Photo of Freddie Hubbard in 1995 by Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times