An aspiring jazz trumpet player's blog about jazz improvisation and ear training.

January 11, 2009 Jazz Blog 11 Comments

Saying Goodbye to Freddie Hubbard

As I’m sure all of you know by now, Freddie Hubbard passed away on December 29, 2008. Since that time, several articles have surfaced to pay respect to Freddie Hubbard and to celebrate his contribution to jazz music. You can find links to many of these articles over at the Secret Society blog. One of my jazz trumpet blogging pals, Eric at JazzBrew.com, also wrote a nice send off.

Freddie Hubbard, Red ClayFor the past two weeks, I’ve wanted to write an article about Freddie Hubbard's passing, but each time I sat down to write, paralysis would set in. I’d just stare at the empty page, overwhelmed by the impossible task of saying goodbye to a dear friend. I never met Freddie Hubbard, nor have I even seen him play live, but through his music he’s been a constant companion and a source of inspiration throughout my musical journey.

Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay" album was one of the first records that I got from my local library when I started listening to jazz. “Red Clay” introduced me to Freddie Hubbard’s impeccable virtuosity, his ferocious yet beautifully melodic style, and of course, that big fat Freddie Hubbard sound. I was just a high school student at the time, but I was hooked on jazz forever thanks in large part to Freddie Hubbard’s playing on “Red Clay.”

A couple of years after first hearing “Red Clay,” I enrolled at the University of Michigan as a jazz studies major. Early in my freshman year, I was practicing with a jazz combo when the bass player called “Speak No Evil.” I had never heard the tune before. Come to think of it, I hadn’t even heard a single Blue Note recording at that point. Crazy, huh?! Anyway, I tried to sight-read the tune from my freshly purchased Real Book, but it was a disaster. Especially when I tried to play the demanding bridge. Hoping to avoid another embarrassing performance, the next day I went to the local record store to see if they had a copy of “Speak No Evil.” They did have it, but I remember looking at the price tag and wondering if it was really worth the money (like most college students, I was broke). I almost walked away from the album, but then I noticed that Freddie Hubbard was the trumpet player. I thought to myself, “If Freddie is playing on it, it must be good.” And boy was it. Not only would “Speak No Evil” become one of my favorite jazz recordings of all time, but it also introduced me to the 60’s Blue Note sound that I’ve come to love.

After my freshman year of college at University of Michigan, I transferred to the music school at DePaul University in Chicago. I was glad to be living in Chicago, but I was kind of lonely during the first month or two since I didn’t live on campus and I didn’t know anyone in town. Eventually, I met some other students in the jazz program and they invited me over to their apartment to hang out. When I arrived, they were playing a jazz recording that I hadn’t heard before, but it sounded vaguely familiar. Sure enough, Freddie Hubbard was the trumpet player. The recording was “I Was Doing Alright,” from Dexter Gordon’s “Doin’ Alright” album. There I was, happy to be chatting with my first friends in Chicago and Freddie Hubbard was providing the soundtrack! That’s such a great memory for me that I immediately thought of it when naming this website.

During that first year in Chicago it became painfully obvious that I wasn’t going to be good enough to become a professional jazz trumpet player. So, I quit music school and stopped playing the trumpet for a period of seven years. When I finally returned to the trumpet in 2002, I had major doubts about my ability to rebuild my chops. Mostly, I wondered if the damage I caused to my chops from my freshman year of college had caused irreparable damage (I practiced too much and developed a blister on my top lip). I spent a lot of time searching the Web for advice that might help me improve my embouchure when I came across an article about Freddie Hubbard. The article discussed a lip injury that Freddie suffered in the early 1990's. That injury became infected and doctors performed a biopsy which destroyed his embouchure. I couldn’t believe it. Freddie Hubbard was no longer Freddie Hubbard.

It might sound strange, but Freddie Hubbard’s embouchure problems actually became a source of inspiration for me during my return to the trumpet. When my chops wouldn’t cooperate, I’d think about what happened to Freddie Hubbard’s chops. I might have an imperfect embouchure, but at least I didn’t suffer through a debilitating operation. When I’d get discouraged about my progress, I’d think about how Freddie Hubbard must feel every time he picks up his horn. He knew with certainty that he’d never play as well as he used to play. I, however, have plenty of room for improvement, especially since I wasn’t that good to begin with! But seriously, I did and still do feel a tremendous responsibility to give it my all every time I pick up the trumpet to practice. I never know how long the gift of music will last and I want to make the most I can of every minute.

At the end of each day, when I practice jazz improvisation, more often than not I’m playing along with a Freddie Hubbard recording. Every so often a few seconds will pass where I’m totally in sync with him and we’re both at the top of our game. And when I close my eyes, I imagine him with that big grin, smiling back at me. It’s the happiest part of my day.

Goodbye, Freddie.


  • Freddie Hubbard - Ready For Freddie
  • Freddie Hubbard - Open Sesame
  • Freddie Hubbard - Goin' Up
  • Freddie Hubbard - Red Clay (this album has a 70's funk/fusion influence)


  • Dexter Gordon - Doin' Alright
  • Wayne Shorter - Speak No Evil
  • Art Blakey & The Jazz Messengers - Free For All
  • Herbie Hancock - Empryean Isles
  • Herbie Hancock - Maiden Voyage
  • Oliver Nelson - Blues & The Abstract Truth
  • Hank Mobley - Roll Call
  • Eric Dolphy - Outward Bound (this album is a bit more adventurous than those mentioned above)

... you might as well just get all of the 1960's-era Blue Note albums featuring Freddie Hubbard.

Comment by John Fowlerr

Thank you very much for your Freddie Hubbard comments. I have never heard him play, as far as I know, but must keep my eye out for a record of him playing if he is as good as you say he is.

I am an accountant, serving mainly in the International Atomic Energy Agency, Vienna, until retirement a few years ago - settling down in my old home town - Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia. You must visit, some time - a beautiful area!

I have been playing trumpet and French Horn for most of my life and have found a lot of useful information in your web cite ... and I sincerely compliment you on the trouble you have gone to create such a friendly and useful environment.

Best wishes for the future.

John Fowler

Comment by Rick

Hi John,

I just added a list of recommended recordings to the end of the article and encourage you to check some of them out. Dexter Gordon's "Doin' Alright" might be a good place for you to start. You won't be disappointed!


Comment by Rob

Thanks for writing this Rick.

Freddie Hubbard's passing is a terrible loss to the jazz community. He was one of the true greats. He was across so many different styles and on some of the seminal recordings in the history of jazz.

Like you I never met him or heard him play live, and I too feel like I have lost a close friend.


Comment by Eric

Great tribute Rick. I count Speak No Evil as one of my favorite jazz recordings of all time too. Come to think of it - Doin' Alright is also on that list. I still get sad when I think about the fact that he's gone but listening to Freddie play never ceases to put a smile on my face and send me scrambling back to the practice room.

Comment by Bill

I am closing out my day at the office after 6:30, and thought I needed a little trumpet music before heading home. Saw your site in my favorites and thought I would check in. Your tribute to Freddie was just what I needed to end my day.

Best wishes and thanks,


Comment by Matt

A very fitting tribute to one of the great legends of Jazz trumpet. He was truly unique..

Comment by David

I was also prompted to re-discover Freddie following news of his death and I second your high ranking of "Ready For Freddie". Another little-known gem I have been wearing out is "Sky Dive", from the same era as "Red Clay". Thanks, I always find something interesting about jazz when visiting your site.

Comment by Brent

I certainly miss the "Blue Note" Freddie. His Hub Tones albums is one of my favorites. I am working on a "Blue Note" Drum Corps show. The Hornline arrangements have Freddie's Mark all over it.

Comment by Zachary Clark

hello brother, all I got to to say is that you tell your slef you are not good enough way to much, you sound like me. a year ago all ways puting my slef down, I did not know Iwas puting my slef down at the time. I play tha guitar just for the love of it. and I'll allways be learning for as long as I live. I know that now. so I'am as good as I can be to day,tomorrow is not hear yet. so I feel good about my playing right now, and if tomorrow comes I'll keep on learning.that way I feel good about what I'am doing, and I have fun doing it my name is zack.

Comment by Felix

I was a student of Dave Baker's at Indiana University in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Dave and Freddie Hubbard are from Indianapolis, Indiana. They knew each other from there. I am from Indiana too but I never met and did not know Freddie. I did meet Woody Shaw and took a lesson in a workshop from him in the early 1980's. I have since that time become a friend of whomever is running his facebook page now and I asked that person did Woody have absolute pitch? Guess what he told me..........He said.........absolutely. Absolutely Woody had absolute pitch and he added so did Freddie. A few years ago when Wynton Marsales had come exploding onto the national scene through the media as being the greatest trumpeter since the beginning of time. I happend to be in Manhattan at the Blue Note outside the Village and it was Wynton Marsales gig. So guess who walks in? Art Blakey and Freddie Hubbard walk in and Art starts talking trash. Art is saying Freddie is going to blow Wynton away blah, blah, blah. He is going to walk the bar with him, ect...... Well Freddie takes out his horn and puts his moutpiece on and starts warming up. Freddie sits in on Wynton's set and he is blowing his loudest big tone and he is blowing his horn in Wynton's face. Wynton was polite. He did not make a scene. Wynton was a nice young man but he was not ready for Freddie Hubbard and of course was mostly hype in those days. Wynton has improved some over the years but I do not know if he will ever be the horn player Freddie was. It was really funny. It took my mind back to the old cutting contests. Sonny Stitt used to do that to saxophone players. In any case I really enjoyed myself that night. It was a night to remember. The late Freddie Hubbard and Woodrow Shaw both had perfect pitch. I was doin all right and then I came to this site.~ Felix

Comment by Felix

Zachary seems to think you are putting yourself down. He does not have a clue does he? I know you are realistic and you want to improve and get better. I have felt the sting of defeat myslef in a comptetive environment. When I was in Gary, Indiana I was the baddest thing in town but I did not have a clue either. I was just playing for the love of it, and yes I figured I would be learning as long as I live, and I am as good as I can be today, and I hope to be better tomorrow like Zack but I make my living as a musician and that is on a completely different level than Zack. I have been exposed to and have worked with great musicians so I know where I fit in amongst the greats that I have met. i have some way to go but I am on a high functioning level right now.

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