Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard

Jazz trumpet great Freddie Hubbard has died. The NME, among others, has the details.

I can't think of the man without thinking of the time I saw him perform with Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner in either 1988 or 1989 -- my memory fades but I think I've narrowed it down to those two years.

It was one of the first times I had been to DC's Blues Alley and I was prepared for a good show; I had already seen McCoy Tyner once, I think, and I knew his work with Coltrane, obviously.

As for Hubbard, I knew a bit about his Blue Note work at that time but was still new to his genius.

So McCoy plays a few songs with his band and then Freddie comes out.

I spot a yuppie couple in the front with their freckle-faced son sitting with them. I could imagine the parents telling the kid what legends these two performers were, that kind of thing; how this was going to be real jazz, not that Kenny G shit, and so on.

Freddie plays -- I'm being generous here -- probably half a song until he just stops and launches into this stream of invectives I probably shouldn't type: "Goddamn waitresses serving drinks when a motherf***er is trying to play!" and so on.

Like Fred Sanford with a horn or something.

Then, he storms off the stage, leaving McCoy and his band to continue the show.

I tried to get a glimpse of the kid's face after that. He didn't look too wide-eyed anymore.

So kid, here's the lesson for the day: McCoy Tyner is the exception; a lot of the real jazz legends are and were temperamental geniuses, which is to say assholes sometimes.

But, in the end, Freddie's albums on Blue Note *are* downright magnificent and so what if he stormed off? That doesn't change or diminish his musical talent which will live on long after he will.

Rest in peace, Freddie.