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Meet Freddie Hubbard

By Published: December 29, 2008

Miles Davis

I used to try to play like him too—those ballads. One night he heard me at Birdland. He was sitting on the side of the stage. I had my eyes closed, and I was playing some of his licks. I looked down and saw him, and I almost passed out. When I got off he said, "Why don't you play some of your own stuff?" After that I stopped copying people. Miles and Dizzy used to tell me I played too hard and too long. I should warm up before I played. Miles might take an hour before he started. It would take him that long to get his embouchure set, but it came out pure and clean.

Lee Morgan

Yeah, I was close to that crazy ___. He and I were the Young Turks at that time. He was a cocky little young cat, and he was great, exciting, spirited. He was the only cat that could frighten me. He got messed up.

Maynard Ferguson

I used to go see that guy play at Birdland. He used to play those high C's every night. Remember when Maynard had lip trouble? He went over to England to get straightened out. He's still going strong.

Wynton Marsalis

I didn't know it at the time [late 70's], but he was going to school in New York. He came to my dressing room and played all of my licks back to me, some I'd forgotten. I said, "Where did you learn to play all that?" He said, "It's all your stuff." He's the only one I've heard who could play some of the stuff on my records. I dig that lip thing he can do—(sings) yaw-yaw-ya-yaw-yaw. He's a technician, but he's stiff—I guess he can play that way if he wants to. We did a big band thing at Carnegie Hall together.

Richard Davis

I love to play with Richard—he's fantastic. I think he's teaching now. He and I made a record [Out to Lunch, Blue Note, 1964] with Eric Dolphy that was kind of advanced. That free music is not the feeling right now.

Current favorites

I like Tom Harrell—he's a nice guy. He wakes me up—he and Roy Hargrove. You think Roy sounds like me? Maybe that's the reason I like him! I like this guy Christian McBride and Benny Green—they worked with me. I love Bobby Watson—I heard him last time I was in New York. They're keeping it going.

Favorite records

One of my first records, Ready for Freddie (Blue Note, 1961). I had full control over it. That and Red Clay (CTI, 1970) were my best playing straight up. When it comes to more commercial stuff, First Light (CTI, 1971). It has some nice arrangements, and I won a Grammy. I've met all kinds of people, old and young, that like that record. I played it with feeling. Melody Maker did a discography on me. Check this out—I've made 300 records. I started looking into it, and I found some money from these companies.


I'm entertaining ideas about doing it after I get better on my horn. Those rap cats have some crazy meters. I'll have to give it some serious thought before I do it.

Jazz education

I have students come over in the evenings. They want to play some of the fast stuff I used to play—they're in a hurry. These kids coming out of school now, they have the correct embouchure, but they don't have the strength or the time. It's hard to play the trumpet with feeling. Like Chuck Mangione—he doesn't play loud or hard, but he has that feeling. He's not trying to be hip. I used to go over to everybody's house and say, "Teach me this, teach me that." They'd show me (They'd play it on the horn.), but they didn't teach me how to execute it. They didn't take time to teach me to play it right. We used to go on the road and play with Art Blakey, Count Basie, Horace Silver in the 60's and 70's. I used to sit in with bands that were established. I learned the backgrounds, everything. It's not like that now—it's more like a vacuum.

Wrap up

I'm glad you're doing this for the Internet so people can find out about me. I have a computer now. My wife's using it to write a book. I'm 63. I don't feel like it, and I don't look like it. I still have a lot in me. Since I moved to California I haven't wanted to work much. I got discouraged for a while. I still don't want to work that hard, but if I can arrange to work about six months a year that's what I'll do. I hear all these kids playing my ideas on the radio. Sometimes I have to stop and say, "Is that me?" It feels good to hear it, but people think the kids started it. Tell the young boys to look out—Freddie Hubbard's coming back!

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