After a hectic drive back to town and frantic conversations with trumpeter Thad Wilson and jazz critic Howard Mandel, I’m saddened to report that the rumors discussed on this blog today are true. Legendary jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard died this morning at Sherman Oaks Hospital in Sherman Oaks, California, at 2:00 AM Los Angeles Time. He was 70.
Hubbard died of complications from the heart attack he suffered on Nov. 26.
The Indianapolis native debuted in New York in 1958, at age 20, then stormed onto the national scene as a leader and star two years later. Through the 1960s and ’70s and even into the ’80s the trumpeter’s virtuosity, innovation, and rhythm and imagination eclipsed even Miles Davis as an influence on young trumpet players. His bright tone, boundless energy, and unabashed willingness to change an solo’s direction mid-phrase were defining elements of an original style that’s as exciting today as it was in 1960.
In his prime, Hubbard was on jazz’s frontier, playing on the two most radical recordings of the era (Ornette Coleman‘s Free Jazz and John Coltrane‘s Ascension) and exploring new territory on his own with albums like Breaking Point and Hub Tones. He was even an early proponent of the fusion sound in the early 1970s. Though his reputation was tarnished by some slick pop-jazz work and his work greatly reduced by injuries and financial concerns, Hubbard remained tremendously respected in both mainstream and progressive circles; a recording this summer with the New Jazz Composers Octet brought whispers of a comeback for the veteran musician.
The loss of Hubbard is tremendous in the jazz world. It’s dwarfed, however, by the legacy he leaves behind.