Freddie Hubbard: Interview 1
Freddie Hubbard: Interview 2

Freddie Hubbard (1938–2008)

A jazz trumpeter and bandleader who played in the bebop, hard bop and post-bop styles, Frederick ‘Freddie’ Dewayne Hubbard was a powerful and imaginative player who influenced the development of the trumpet in modern jazz during the 1960s.

Hubbard dropped out of college in his home town of Indianapolis, Indiana, and moved to New York in the late 1950s where he shared an apartment with flautist and saxophonist Eric Dolphy.

He quickly established himself at jam sessions across the city, and was playing with John Coltrane at Birdland when Miles Davis dropped by. On hearing Hubbard play, Davis recommended him to Alfred Lion of Blue Note Records, who gave him a four record deal.

Through the 1960s Hubbard was developing his own sound and moving away from his earlier influences of Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan.

A prolific recording artist, Hubbard appeared as a sideman with many notable jazz musicians including Ornette Coleman, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock. He also played on several of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messenger albums.

In the 1970s Hubbard moved to Hollywood and rarely played jazz, preferring pop and R&B. He started playing jazz again in the 1980s, leading his own group, until an infected lip in 1992 caused him to stop playing for a period and impacted his ability to perform. He continued to record and play occasionally until his death in 2008.

Biography by John Rosie


Melody is as important as ever

In the second part of his 1973 interview by Les Tomkins, Freddie Hubbard talks about Quincy Jones’ approach to jazz and getting the best out of his band. He also talks about what he listens to when not performing, including electronic music.

You can also read the original article: Crescendo, June 1973, pp16–18


Peanuts Hucko

Freddie Hubbard: Interview 2

Image Details

Interview date 1st January 1973
Interview source Jazz Professional
Image source credit
Image source URL
Reference number
Forename Freddie
Surname Hubbard
Quantity 2

Interview Transcription

There was a period in New York where it was kinda free. I mean, you got a bunch of great guys together in the studio and you just played. And the man who made the record made all the money. So it got to the point, everybody said: “We deserve more money.” Well, all record people are very money–conscious. They like the music, but it always ends up into a capital gain thing. Which is good, but in the meantime the artist doesn’t realise his gains.

See, people take you for granted—the fact that you’re out there and you’re more interested in creating something righteous that you believe in. Nowadays. it’s a thing of: “If I’m going to create this, then I should be rewarded.” You’ve got musicians now who are more business–minded.

In my own case, I’m getting tired of the road. So now I want to set up some kind of business where I can become stationary some place, to just cool it, take time, think and relax. Just before coming to London, we did twenty–one one–nighters all over Europe.

With me now I have saxophonist Junior Cook, who is just beginning to get that excitement that I wanted. There was a period elapsed in between Horace Silver and me, where he became very discouraged with the scene; I had to go and get him out of Boston, bring him back to New York. Now he’s kinda relaxed, and he’s playing better. He’s a very introverted, quiet, beautiful cat. He doesn’t assert himself maybe as much as other guys; that’s the reason he hasn’t made that many albums. But now I’m trying to get him to get that energy, to get out here and be able to deal with this.

Because it’s not all fun—and that’s what he’s got to learn. It’s just not easy, travelling with four other guys. We do a lot of colleges lately; we still do clubs, and some television, I still haven’t broken through that major network television that they have in the States: I don’t think anybody has.

Although I think there’s more freedom in playing now, I never was really into that free form idea. I still like melodic things. I can play that way—sometimes I feel like it—but I wouldn’t want to play like that all night, because I don’t get that much enjoyment out of it.

I mean, a lot of people don’t know what a standard is. So if you’re going to play free form, it’s got to be a matter of the musicians schooling the people to what they’re doing now. In the past, a guy would just play, and then he would say: “Okay, you don’t like it—crazy.” But I think now we have a lot of artists who are going into the universities and teaching—trying to take time to tell people what’s happening. Which is a good move. In fact, very soon I may do that myself.

As for Quincy Jones’ approach to getting jazz over—he’s a clever organiser. He realises the better attributes that certain artists have, and he’s able to get that from them to make his thing work. Like, in the “Smackwater Jack” album he’s got me and Milt Jackson playing on “What’s Goin’ On”. After I did it, I said: “Wait a minute. I could have done the same thing.” You know—here I am on his album, helping him get rich: but to me that’s square—I couldn’t put that on my album. So if it’s that square, why would I do it for him? But that’s what he’s able to do, because he’s on a big level. He’s a clever guy, he writes good, and he can pull you. Plus he’s a beautiful cat.

Quincy manages to keep it loose enough, so the guys don’t get bored. But some while back. I worked with him for about a year. Then it got to be a bore; what he was writing then, in order to work, to keep a big band together, was really some funny music. But he had to give it up, because he was just getting in debt, finally. To me, Quincy has never been a hard–core artist, like a Miles, a Coltrane or a Monk. He’s more of an arranger than a composer: he’s able to take a theme, and make it sound big and broad. Sure, he writes TV stuff, and he comes up with something like the Anderson Tapes music, but it’s not a composition like “Round Midnight” or “Seven Steps ‘To Heaven”. Arranging is his thing.

In fact, I badly want him to do something for me, to showcase me with his arrangements of things I’ve composed. He has the background and the knowledge. I can do the writing, but I spend most of my time just concentrating on playing.

I’ve played on tracks like The Pawnbroker, Blow–Up, The Bus Is Coming, Shaft’s Big Score. But now you’ve got someone like Gato Barbieri getting credit for the writing on Last Tango In Paris. A lot of guys are getting a chance to write at least a theme; then, if they can arrange, they’re allowed to arrange it. Which is the reason I moved to North Hollywood—to possibly get into film writing. I think Hollywood is a better scene, because most of your artists are moving out there now. Everything’s leaving New York; people are fed up with it. They don’t necessarily want to go through that “hustle, bustle and die young” thing. They want to go out in a nice atmosphere where they can relax and create. Only those earthquakes to worry about.

As for my private record listening—it’s mostly jazz. Sometimes I’ll listen to a legitimate trumpet player like Maurice Andre, for another dimension. But I heard a lot of classical music when I was in school, which was good, although I used to go to sleep through some of it.

I listen to a little electronic music. Did you ever hear an album I did on Atlantic called “Sing Me A Song Of Songmy”? It was an experimental type thing, with moog synthesizer, ring modulator and echoplex. This guy who teaches electronic music at Columbia University came to me with the idea. It’s a very deep album, which involves poetry, protest and a lot of other things. I’d like to perform it in Europe, but I have voices on it, also I was playing a sort of classical–type piece by myself; so, with all the sounds and the tapes that he would have to transport, it would be a pretty difficult venture. Certainly, though, my sales have gone up since I’ve been with CTI, and the presentation of the albums has been much better. Creed Taylor is a very good producer. After most of the companies were dying out, he was able to get certain artists together and turn out some beautiful albums. I’ve always admired people like Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Lennie White and Joe Henderson; so when we get together, it’s just fantastic, man. Creed’s able to do that.

In the last two years, in fact, my career’s really been on the up–swing, And now I feel more confident about my playing. That’s what it’s really all about—it’s how you feel, not how much money you make or how popular it is, in this kind of music I play. My sound is more pleasing to myself, and because of this it’s becoming more pleasing to more people. Basically, it’s not what you play, but whether or not it’s a sound that people like.

I’ve been playing the flugelhorn about four years, and now I can play it better than the trumpet, because it’s much easier to play. But I had a little old cornet, made back in about nineteen–twenty–something—a short, stubby instrument; one like Louis used to play, with the round back. It had a beautiful, real mellow sound; it was in between a cornet and a trumpet so small that I could do a lot of things on it that I couldn’t do on the trumpet. I used it on an album with Herbie Hancock and when I heard the playback, I said: “Wow—did I do all those things?” It was almost like I had complete control of this little horn. It wasn’t like the cornet they play today; it was much fatter in the back.

But still there’s nothing like the sound of a trumpet—it carries, you know. It either puts your ears out or puts ‘em in! It’s like a violin—you hear a bad violin, you don’t want to hear it, because of the tone.

As far as practising goes—I’ve been playing so long, I didn’t even take my trumpet back to my hotel when I finished the job at Ronnie’s. I didn’t want to see it because if I saw it, I’d have started playing it. Having been working so steady, it wouldn’t have made sense to practise on the thing. because I would have been tired.

On my return to the States, after one day off, I go to a job in North Carolina for six more days. This is after twenty–one one–nighters and two weeks back to back at Ronnie Scott’s. So when I get through with North Carolina, I’m going to Jamaica and I’m just going to look up at the sun—just relax. In fact, if I get my money together, I’m thinking about taking a year off.

Oh, I’d have to go out and jam every once in a while, but I’d really like to take time to catch up with a few things. I want to learn some French, read some books, study some metaphysics and get into myself, and learn to arrange like Quincv. But the first thing is—to relax, because you can’t concentrate otherwise. This is something completely different for me, because I’ve been running and struggling all my life—you know, trying to get in a position to be able to demand a certain fee, or whatever. When you’re so busy trying to make it, you don’t have time to broaden out.

That’s how a lot of musicians die—they get caught in the web, and can’t get out. I’ve seen it happen to so many great people. But times are changing, and I don’t think this has to happen. Why do you have to be poor? Why not create in comfort? To achieve this, though, you must have a relaxed mind. Because being black and living in the States is enough; being blackanywhere right now. Sure, it’s getting better—because whites are realising certain things that they didn’t realise a few years ago.

Jon Hendricks found changes when he went back to the States. When he left, it was more of a fun thing around New York—a jam session, matinee type of feeling. But he came back, looked around and everybody was serious. That’s the reason you have to get out of the States, go to different places, to just see how different people think about themselves and the life–style they choose.

Like, I know a lot of people, they don’t want to leave New York. They think that New York is it, the place, that after you leave New York there’s nothing. But when you get outside, and you look back, you say: “Wow, that’s not as great as it’s taken to be!” I think jazz players are getting more respect today than they’ve ever got. Jazz is put on the same level as, say, Leonard Bernstein. Quincy is getting the credit that’s due to him in his particular field—his way of thinking about music. It’s just that people have different ideas about what they like. And when they come to realise that, the other people won’t be in such a hurry to inflict an alien life–style where it isn’t wanted. America tried to do that in Asia, and it just didn’t work.

The same thing applies to black and white. Now, whites are coming to realise about us: “Well, he’s black, he knows something about his history, and he wants to talk like that, walk like that; even so, he can take care of a certain amount of business. That’s his style of living.” Because, at one point, I was beginning to really hate white people. It got to the point where I couldn’t even play my horn. I got locked up in Austria, after a speech I made onstage. Well, at that time, Max Roach and others were going through that whole thing, and I was caught up in it. The next day, the judge said to me: “Why did you bring that over here? We’re not feeling that way about you; we don’t have that problem.” So from that lesson, I went on to learn more about myself and my history; now I can make a better deal with white people, without getting so uptight.

It’s going to have to be one community. By travelling in various countries and meeting different people, you find out that you have some good and some bad all over the world. You find people who try to demean you and bring you down; then you find some nice people. So I was –five on April 7th, and I’m still learning. I don’t feel or look that old; but I look back and I see all the dues I’ve paid and the blues I’ve played. But I’ve had a pretty good life, man, and I’ve kind of enjoyed myself.

Anyway, I was never in that heavyweight prejudice thing in the South; I grew up in the mid–West, where people were trying to get together before they ever did in the North. It wasn’t a thing of everybody being poor—except, as I told you, when I went to New York! I remember how my mother didn’t want me to go; she said: “That’s too fast for you, Freddie.” But I always like to be where things are happening. And New York was the place where I had a chance to be with people like John Coltrane, Miles, Monk—and to me, that was my life.

I’ll certainly be coming back to Britain. Now that I’ve been able to bring a group here, that people like, as proved by the crowded club every night, and now that CTI is being distributed through Pye Records, so that my albums will be here quicker than five months after release, and having been talking to Jack Parnell about doing a TV show next time I come, I’ll know that all the necessary exposure will be provided.

Copyright © 1973 Les Tomkins. All Rights Reserved.