Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born in Indianapolis on April 7, 1938. The youngest of six children in a musical family, he began his musical studies in junior high school on a tonette, then moved on to E-flat horn, trombone, tuba, French horn, and finally trumpet.
Although his parents separated when he was 14 and times got pretty rough for the family, Freddie recalls, “I was kind of spoiled because, no matter what, my mother always made sure that I had a trumpet.” If he wasn’t out hustling money by setting up bowling pins at the local alley and collecting refuse to sell, Freddie and some friends would be getting together to transcribe music off popular records, to “try to emulate what we had heard.”
This provided a valuable training ground for Freddie, who soon was offered a French horn scholarship to Indiana Central College. He turned it down to attend Jordan College where he could concentrate on the trumpet. He concentrated plenty, but not in the way the school had intended: Freddie was bounced out for playing too much jazz. “I was fortunate to get out of there,” he says now, for it freed him to gig around town and hone his talents with such local greats as the Montgomery brothers (Wes, Buddy, Monk) and bassist Larry Ridley.
But Freddie soon took off for the jazz mecca, New York. Miles Davis heard the young trumpeter at a club and helped Freddie land a contract with Blue Note Records. There he recorded under his own name and as a sideman with Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, Bobby Hutcherson, Art Blakey, and others. He also appeared on two releases that are generally regarded as turning points of jazz—John Coltrane’s Ascension and Ornette Coleman’s Free Jazz. While at Blue Note, Freddie earned a reputation as a master of the muscular but melodic style known as “hard bop.”
Hubbard moved to the Impulse label where he recorded The Body and the Soul, a memorable album featuring elaborate orchestral arrangements by Wayne Shorter. He signed with Atlantic in ‘66 and recorded a number of hard-swinging jazz albums as well as Ilhan Mimaroglu’s unique antiwar concept LP, Sing Me a Song of Songmy, which surrounded Freddie’s trumpet with poetry, electronic music, and a chorus.
Throughout the Sixties, Hubbard continued to draw critical praise while claiming a large and loyal following. But his early-Seventies association with CTI Records—particularly the release of the ground-breaking Red Clay album (“I put the rock rhythms in on that one”)—firmly established the trumpeter as a leading figure in the “crossover” movement. First Light, which followed shortly thereafter, won Freddie a coveted Grammy Award (for best jazz performance by a small group).
While with the Columbia label (1974-80), Hubbard produced a series of albums (High Energy, Liquid Love, Wind-jammer, Bundle of Joy, Super Blue, Love Connection, Skagly) combining elements of jazz, rock, r&b, electronics, and even classical music. In 1977, he toured as part of the acclaimed VSOP Quintet, along with Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, and Tony Williams.
On his Fantasy debut LP, Splash, Freddie Hubbard ventures into funky waters—“the most beautiful funk I’ve ever made.”
Hubbard co-produced the album with L.A. composer/arranger/trombonist Al Hall, Jr., who worked in one of Freddie’s bands a few years ago. Hubbard and Hall gathered up some of the West Coast’s finest studio musicians for the sessions, including James Gadson, David T. Walker, bassist David Shields, and keyboardist Clarence McDonald.
“These are all cats who understood my background,” Freddie says, “and I have the greatest respect for their musicianship. Working with them was really inspirational.”
The producers also collaborated on much of the LP’s material, with input from McDonald, Shields, and Cynthia Faulkner. Freddie’s favorite cut is the smoking instrumental “Sister ’Stine,” which he wrote for his sister; another standout is the midtempo ballad “You’re Gonna Lose Me,” one of several tracks featuring lead vocals by Jeanie Tracy, the versatile singer who has also worked with Sylvester.
"I’m articulate on this record,” Hubbard declares, “and the music feels good to me. Just because I’m playing funk doesn’t mean I’m jivin’, because I don’t jive when I play my trumpet.”
Photo & bio courtesy of Concord Music Group