Freddie Hubbard - trumpet
Junior Cook - tenor sax/flute
George Cables - piano
Alex Blake - bass
Lenny White - drums
The great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard made his debut at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1969 and subsequently appeared at the ill-fated, shortened 1971 festival in Rhode Island. His appearance with his quintet at the 1972 Newport Jazz Festival in New York came on the heels of receiving a Grammy Award for his 1971 CTI album, First Light. With veteran tenor saxophonist Junior Cook, a member of the Horace Silver quintet that made such a splash at the 1959 Newport Jazz Festival, and a rhythm section comprised of relative youngsters in pianist George Cables, bassist Alex Blake, and drummer Lenny White, Hubbard performed the title track from First Light and a savvy cover of a popular Philly Soul number of the day, both showcasing his sterling chops and audacious, risk-taking tendencies as a soloist.
Opening with an unaccompanied high-note flurry, the trumpet great and his crew head into the title track of First Light, which carries a subtle bossa nova undercurrent while also occasionally heading into more turbulent sections. Cook's initial tenor solo here is bold and full of the spirit of searching. His freewheeling post-Coltrane extrapolations on this modal theme are kicked into high gear by the passionate input of the rhythm section and in particular by the forceful drumming of White, who shortly after this gig would join the fusion super group Return To Forever.
In the course of this lengthy 20-minute opener, everyone in the band gets a taste. Bassist Blake showcases his dexterity on his amplified upright during an extended, unaccompanied foray that allows him to stretch out and explore his forceful strummed chordal work to the hilt. Hubbard follows with a typically audacious solo that is full of lyricism and turbulence (that yin-yang quality was always apparent in his playing) and is marked by signature smears and virtuosic bursts into the high register (the kind of incredibly forceful blowing on the metal mouthpiece of his trumpet that would later cause career-threatening lip damage). Hubbard next engages in a playful free jazz interlude with his band members before segueing to "People Make the World Go Round," a politically-charged Philly Soul number by the writing team of Thomas Bell-Linda Creed that was a 1971 hit for the Sylistics. This mellow offering highlights the more expressive and lyrical aspects of Hubbard's trumpet playing before building to some tumultuous exchanges with drummer White at the tag. Hubbard would later record this tune on his 1975 CTI album, Polar AC.
Hubbard was at the peak of his powers at this 1972 Newport Jazz Festival appearance. And while he had long since established his reputation in the jazz world through a series of acclaimed albums on the Blue Note label through the '60s, Hubbard was also enjoying commercial triumphs for the first time in his career with his string of popular CTI albums in the early '70s. This Carnegie concert captures Freddie at a time when both the artistic and commercial aspects of his music were in perfect balance.
Born on April 7, 1938, in Indianapolis, Indiana, Hubbard worked locally as a teenager with brothers Wes and Monk Montgomery. In 1958, at the age of 20, he moved to New York and immersed himself on the Big Apple jazz scene, gigging with the likes of Philly Joe Jones, Sonny Rollins, Slide Hampton, Eric Dolphy, J. J. Johnson, and Quincy Jones. He made his first record as a leader, Open Sesame, in June, 1960, and in December of that year appeared on Ornette Coleman's groundbreaking Free Jazz. This led to a flood of activity, both as a sideman and as a leader. In 1961, Hubbard played on John Coltrane's Africa/Brass and Olé Coltrane sessions and also released his third and fourth recordings as a leader on Blue Note, Hub Cap and Ready for Freddie. Toward the end of 1961, he replaced trumpeter Lee Morgan in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and played on the group's classic Mosaic that year. Hubbard subsequently played on several Blakey recordings during his tenure with the Jazz Messengers, including Caravan, Ugetsu, and Free For All.
Following his string of commercial successes through the 1970s with Creed Taylor's CTI label (including 1970's Red Clay and 1971's Grammy Award-winning First Light), he joined the VSOP Quintet to play straight ahead jazz alongside Herbie Hancock, Tony Williams, Ron Carter, and Wayne Shorter, members of the mid-'60s Miles Davis Quintet. They released four live albums documenting their indelible chemistry. Hubbard led his own hard bop flavored groups through the '80s, then suffered a career setback in 1992 when he suffered a serious lip injury (his upper lip ruptured and developed an infection which compromised his sterling chops). He made a comeback in 2001 with New Colors, backed by the New Jazz Composers Octet and in 2006 received a Jazz Masters Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was once again paired with the New Jazz Composers Octet on 2008's On the Real Side and died on December 29 of that year (at age 70) from complications from a heart attack.
Hubbard's sad decline toward the end of his career was well documented. As he said in the liner notes to On the Real Side: "It's really something when you lose your chops like that. You feel like a motherless child." But at the peak of his powers, as he was on this July 3rd night at the 1969 Newport Jazz Festival, no trumpeter on the planet played longer, higher, and faster than the great Freddie Hubbard. (Milkowski)