On “Hub Tones” (Freddie Hubbard) Upon His Passing

Here are some thoughts about passing of the greatest of all-Freddie Hubbard by David Liebman
We all know that in the past decade or so Freddie Hubbard was not really playing much, but the truth is that if had stopped playing after the late 60s, I would still say the same thing about him, which is that he was the best of all time for me. His sound and ideas, his fire, his tunes and most of all his time were all incredible. He had the widest beat of anyone and made you really feel the pulse. He did it all-in and out harmonies-soft and loud-abstract with the blues, etc. He influenced everyone who is serious about jazz.

I received two lessons inadvertently from Hub for which he would be surprised. On a recording session under Jimmy Cobb’s leadership in the early 80’s, I arranged one of my tunes for three horns: Freddie on flugel, Pee Wee Ellis on tenor and myself on soprano witH a great rhyThm section iNcluding Larry Willis and Walter Booker. Of course I was quite nervous about the tune, the arrangement, Freddie Hubbard, my shadow, etc-you get the point!! We did a take and of course there is that silence which occurs after the ringing of the cymbals subsides-who will talk first? The arranger, the leader or the “heavy” (Hub) in the room because truthfully everyone was in awe of Hub in and out of the band that day. Finally, in what seemed a lifetime Hub says let’s listen and of course I get the middle seat in the booth since it is my tune. Now, not that the tune was very hard, but there were some tricky things you had to stay alert about in the bridge (tune is “Picadilly Lilly”). Hub fluffed a note or two and of course though I was aware of it during the take, I was not about to say anything. To my mind at that point in my development as a jazz musician, guys like Freddie Hubbard ALWAYS got it perfect. After a few seconds, Hub yells from the back: “Liebman-that wasn’t right-was it?” I answer the obvious and he says something like “I guess we have to do it again.” Of course, by the third take he owned the tune!! Though it was never released, I learned an important and what might appear simplistic truth thanks to Hubtones which is that the best are that way BECAUSE they want to get it right. To what extent it is a matter of ego and/or artistic determination, the point is don’t let anything go by that can be improved, no matter who you are.
About ten years later in the early 90’s, Hub was a guest with the local college band where I live in Stroudsburg, PA. The school is East Stroudsburg University and the great director who invited heavies like Hub in to play with a basically non-professional student band (no jazz major, etc) was my good friend Pat Dorian. As part of the gig, Freddie was asked to give a q and a in the afternoon for the general public. Knowing about Freddie and his legendary temperament, I was really wondering how his attitude would be for the afternoon session. Well, he was gracious, informative, modest and great all around. I went back stage to see him and commented on his “performance.” He said that he had never done anything like that and he was actually nervous. I assured Hub that he was stellar. This was the very beginning of a period we are still in where no matter who you are, you will probably be giving a clinic somewhere, sometime. I mean if Miles or Duke were around, they would be required to do it. In the early 90s’s this was not common and it made me realize that a change has come when someone like Freddie Hubbard has to talk about his art to the public and like a playing gig, they will be judged on that “performance” as well.

Thanks for the lessons Hubtones!