Remembering Freddie!

June 9, 2009

Indianapolis, Indiana is one of the many cities in the United States with a vibrant and fertile 20th Century jazz legacy. It has produced some of the finest and leading historic progenitors of Jazz as an art form. The musical talent that has emerged from “Naptown” includes the likes of Noble Sissle, Wes, Monk and Buddy Montgomery, J. J. Johnson, Leroy Vinnager, Carl Perkins, “Pookie” Johnson and Jimmy Coe.

Frederick (Freddie) Dwayne Hubbard walked among these giants. Known for his fiery sound and kinetic energy, this Indiana native son passed on December 29, 2008. He leaves his indelible mark on everyone who knew, admired and loved him, and above all on the music. Fellow “Naptown” musicians who grew up with him and watched him evolve from a “Jazz Contemporary”, to a “Jazz Messenger” and ultimately an NEA Jazz Master have joined together to remember this Indiana jazz legend. Read on to learn about Freddie the Man from his brother and some of his closest friends.

Earmon Hubbard, Jr., Pianist

“Freddie was my baby brother who I can still see as clearly as if he were here talking with me now. I loved him and will miss him. My Mother would get on me sometimes for being hard on him when I would play chords on the piano and he wasn’t getting it. I would slap him on the back of his head and Momma would tell me to leave her baby alone. Years later, he came back to Indianapolis and I played a jazz club gig with Freddie, Larry Ridley, Jim Spaulding and Clifford Jarvis. I will always treasure the experience of playing with those guys. It was a highlight in my life. Freddie grew very quickly and I am proud that he is my brother. He tried for several years to get me to come to New York but, I was married with several children. I told him that it was important for me and my wife to raise our kids in Indianapolis. Freddie told me that he respected me as a strong man for putting my family first and turning down an opportunity to pursue a career in music. He left an outstanding recorded legacy for all of us to enjoy.”

James Spaulding, Saxophonist and Flautist

“There is so much to remember about this wild and gifted free spirit. We all are inspired, sharing some of his life. My life is musically richer because of the “Hub”. Larry Ridley pulled us together to form the Jazz Contemporaries when we were teenagers. I will remember the “Hub” because of the abundance of his God given talents, much like the natural musical talents of the Montgomery Brothers. I first heard and met Freddie at a Saturday afternoon jam session. It was at a bar called the Cotton Club. I believe “Hub” was 16 years old at the time. He had a sound somewhere between Clifford Brown and Miles. Already an outstanding player, we all knew he was destined for stardom. He learned his piano skills from his older brother Earmon Jr., who was self taught by listening to Bud Powell recordings. “Hub” listened to his brother playing chords and developed perfect pitch that I believe was God given. A true Aries, Freddie had a fiery personality. He was an outgoing spirit, energetic, very funny and loving. Although we were not always in harmony, I have nothing but love for my friend. His gift to our lives helped pave another path to a future of love, peace and harmony. WORLD PEACE!”

Lee Katzman, Trumpeter

“Freddie was a young teenaged friend who evolved to become a truly important stylistic Jazz innovator. I was the person in the mid 1950s that introduced and encouraged him to study with my teacher Max Woodbury of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Max would insist that you practice slowly playing several octaves and make each note match each other with the same measured even tone, breath, time and consistency. He would chastise you if you made a mistake. This aided Freddie in developing his control and technique in all registers of the horn. You hear this in Freddie’s recorded performances. He was a special guy who will be missed. Thank God we have his recorded legacy to reminisce our personal relationship with him.”

Phil Ranelin, Trombonist

“I first met Freddie Hubbard in 1948 at a place called Hill Community Center while we were attending grade school in Indianapolis, Indiana. Freddie was about 10 years old and I was 8. In the spring of 1951 we performed together in an orchestra that was called the Indianapolis All City Orchestra, a collective of elementary school kids that showed the most promise on their respective instruments. Freddie and I hit it off pretty well despite the fact that my school, P.S. 37 and his school, P.S. 26 were heated rivals. Our next musical encounter was when we were both attending Arsenal Technical High School.

Playing with Freddie and Wes Montgomery without question are my very favorite moments in music. I remember the first time Freddie brought his own group back to Indianapolis. I believe it was 1964. I found out where he was playing and sat at the bar waiting for him with my horn hidden underneath the bar stool. Freddie had his brother Earmon Jr. playing piano, Larry Ridley, bass, Clifford Jarvis, drums and James Spaulding, alto sax and flute. Freddie walked in and asked if I had my horn. I told him I did and he said “I want to hear you but don’t come up on the first tune because you’ll want to get paid!” I said “cool” and ended up playing the whole night after the first tune. Freddie was my favorite trumpet player and was undoubtedly a genius.

In an interview I was asked, “What made Freddie Hubbard so special and what was the one thing that stood out in his playing?” I answered that there wasn’t one thing that stood out. It was everything: his tone, the warmth of his sound, the technical brilliance, his sense of harmony, rhythm and overall musical intelligence. If that did not grab you, his tremendous heart would.”

David Hardiman, Trumpeter

“Freddie and I came up on the Eastside of Indianapolis, and went to Public School 26 and Arsenal Technical High School. We studied with the same teachers. Coming from very meager means, as most of us at that time, I watched Freddie develop into one of the world’s greatest jazz trumpet players. I went to Indiana University and Butler University to study music. Freddie remained in Indianapolis and developed his improvisational and trumpet skills playing with James Spaulding, the Montgomery Brothers, and was influenced by many of the great musicians of that time. His move to New York in 1958 enabled him to connect with Indianapolis great, trombonist “Slide” Hampton and other famous musicians. When I visited Freddie during the World’s Fair in 1964, he was playing with Max Roach in Long Island. I remember Freddie coming to San Francisco several times after that, and noticing his incredible ability to articulate with great facility, agility, range and creative ideas like no one since Clifford Brown. His discography documents his rise to greatness. Freddie became one of my greatest influences and inspirations along with “Dizzy”, Miles, Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan. Freddie Hubbard’s great musical genius, as a composer/arranger, band leader, and master jazz trumpet player places him among the “Jazz Trumpet Kings” of the 20th Century. He will be greatly missed by every one of his many friends and fans.”

Dr. Willis Kirk, Drummer

“I have known Freddie Hubbard and his family since he was a student at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis, IN. I came up performing with fellow Indianapolis Jazz Greats, Wes, Monk and Buddy Montgomery, Slide Hampton, Carl Perkins, Leroy Vinnegar, Earl Grandy, Jimmie Coe, Lee Katzman and other wonderful musicians who played on Indiana Avenue. Because he was under age, Freddie used to stand outside the clubs and listen to us play.

Larry Ridley formed a teenage group called the “Jazz Contemporaries” with Freddie, pianist Walt Miller (later Al Plank on piano), Paul Parker on drums, and Jimmy Spaulding on saxophone. They played frequently at George’s Bar on Indiana Avenue. Freddie really began to develop during this period. He also played with many of us older musicians, Wes, Monk, Buddy, Slide, Leroy and others. In 1958, he left for New York where his career really moved to another level. He was influenced by Clifford Brown, Lee Morgan, Dizzy, Miles, Kenny Dorham and others. His musical genius was recognized by many of the world’s musicians as he traveled and recorded with Art Blakey, Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, J.J., Philly Joe and other Jazz greats. Indianapolis has lost one of its greatest sons. Freddie Hubbard’s recordings leave us with proof of his greatness.”

Virgil Jones, Trumpeter

“I probably first heard Freddie play at a jam session at George’s Bar on Indiana Avenue in Indianapolis. I was about 16 and he was 17. He sounded a lot like Clifford Brown then, but everyone starts somewhere and that was pretty great. When he moved to New York he developed his own sound. By the time he was 21, he became himself, the Freddie who matured into the bold, daring player that I always admired and listened to as part of my personal collection. He had a unique feel for the blues, bop and his delivery was powerfully profound. His improvisations were full of variety, spontaneity and exuberance that was characteristic of his personal nature. I truly loved the guy and will miss him very much.”

Albert Moore, FAA Certified Pilot

“Freddie and I were friends beginning in the 4th grade at P.S. 26 and on to Arsenal Technical High School. My father bought me a trumpet. Freddie used to come over to hang out with me at my house and play on it. He had such a natural touch for the instrument that it discouraged me from thinking that I could ever match him. I told my father that I wanted to give the horn to Freddie. He contacted Mrs. Hubbard and said he wanted to give it to Freddie for free. Mrs. Hubbard, who was a beautiful and proud single parent, refused to accept it for free. She gave my father five dollars for the horn. This was Freddie’s first trumpet. It was made by Blessing and had a circular dial on it that enabled it to be a B flat or C Trumpet. Little did we know then that Freddie would become such a jazz giant. He was my friend and I will miss him.”

Michael Ridley, Trumpeter

“Freddie’s birthday and mine are three days apart and Mom Hubbard would bake us a cake. The taste and aroma were still vivid in our minds as we reminisced by telephone just a month before he left us.

Freddie’s brother Earmon, an amazing piano player, was his first teacher of the language of “Bebop”. Earmon had insight into Bud Powell that provided “fertile soil” for Freddie’s growth,

Freddie and I would go to Chicago to the Regal Theatre and the clubs around 63rd Street and Cottage Grove to hear the bands playing. Freddie got a chance to play at some jam sessions. We went together to hear the Chicago Symphony and also the Indianapolis Symphony featuring Raphael Mendez.

I truly miss Freddie and his music. He brought a lot of joy to people world wide. “Well done “Hub!”

Edythe Fitzhugh, Jazz fan and Indianapolis Jazz family friend

“Indianapolis, Indiana has produced a host of jazz players of note. Of the many was one Freddie Hubbard, fondly known by some as “Hub Cap”. He was a product of Arsenal Technical High School, not Crispus Attucks High School as has erroneously been written in some bio sketches of him. Freddie was sometimes funny, sometimes moody, but always the consummate musician. Those of us who were fortunate enough to be a part of the era that gave us the “Jazz Contemporaries” (Larry Ridley, Freddie, James Spaulding, Paul Parker, Walter Miller/Al Plank), the Montgomery Brothers (Wes, Monk Buddy), J.J. Johnson, David Baker, Leroy Vinnegar, Slide Hampton and his musical family, Phil Ranelin, David Young, “Pookie” Johnson, Jimmy Coe, “Killer” Ray Appleton, Earl Grandy and too many others to name, consider ourselves blessed.

Thanks “Hub Cap” for being a friend, the icon you have become and for the legacy you leave. “Ya done good and made us proud!”

Clifford Ratliff, Trumpeter

“Freddie Hubbard has always been an inspiration to me. Since the first time that I got a glimpse of him from the rear vent window in back of “Mr. B’s Lounge”, I’ve always loved his music. For me, no one could play and phrase a ballad like he could. His music will always be a part of my musical life and he will be missed.”

Chuck Workman, Indy NUVO newspaper writer and Indianapolis Jazz activist

“Freddie was Passion: blowing intense, fiery blasts from the mouth of his horn; Pride: knowing he was taking his horn to new levels of execution; Perfection: always raising his personal bar of performance. As he told me, “I thought I was some kind of superman.”

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