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. Accompanied by 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 22-year-old drummer Lenny White, Hubbard was at the peak of his powers for his Carnegie Hall debut.
Hubbard opens with an unaccompanied high-note flurry before his quintet heads into a cover of the popular Philly Soul track "People Make the World Go 'Round," a politically-charged number penned by the writing team of Thomas Bell-Linda Creed that was a hit the year before for The Stylistics. This mellow offering highlights the more expressive and lyrical aspects of Hubbard's trumpet playing before he builds to some stratospheric high-note bravado midway through. Hubbard would later record this tune on his 1975 CTI album, Polar AC.
Hubbard concludes his appearance at the 19th Newport Jazz Festival with a new piece called "Back to Georgia," which he explains represents his spiritual upbringing. This dramatic suite is imbued with a bold spirit of searching along with some funkier passages that team Hubbard's trumpet and Cook's tenor sax on the front line. Hubbard's solo here is tremendous as he wafts effortlessly into the high register with startling aplomb before digging into the funk factor with real-deal conviction and then double-timing against White's polyrhythmic bombast with ease. Most Hubbard solos are orchestrated for maximum excitement; this one is a sonic rollercoaster ride. Bassist Blake also contributes an electrifying solo that crosses over into grunge territory with a touch of distortion on his upright instrument. And the whole thing is propelled by the forceful drumming of White who, shortly after this gig, would join the fusion super group Return To Forever.
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-sixties 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.
-Written by Bill Milkowski