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Live Review: Freddie Hubbard at Yoshi’s

Posted by Gabe Meline on Apr 4, 2008 | Comments (8)

Freddie Hubbard, four days shy of his 70th birthday, staggered out onto the Yoshi’s stage last night with a flugelhorn and a menacing scowl. Mean and disorderly, he waved his arms to stop “Now’s The Time,” barking at the band. How dare they?

The guys had been killing time, waiting for Hubbard to show up long after he’d been announced. First couple silent minutes on stage had been rough. What the hell else were they supposed to do? Hubbard—pissed off, cantankerous—counted off a tune, placed his legendary lips into his mouthpiece, and leaned into the microphone for yet another painful struggle to get any kind of sound out of his horn.

A few notes here. A contorted face of disgust. A few notes there. A disappointed survey of his valves. A few notes—no, wait, just a garbled line of noise, actually.

Fuck it.

Hubbard hobbled to the back of the stage, thrusting his hand to no one in particular to start the next solo, and sat down, shooting bitter glances around the depressing scenario.

I was one of the best fucking players, he thought. Look at me now. Can’t even string four notes together. This busted lip, what a goddamned farce. Make Bobby Hutcherson play a ballad—that’ll spare me a few minutes, at least.

“I haven’t done anything in the last five years,” he muttered to the crowd, “except get operations.” Limping around the stage as if to collapse at any second, he accused other members on the bandstand of having more money than him, asking about Hutcherson’s yacht. “I got 300 records,” he boasted. “Buy twenty of ‘em and I’ll stay alive.”

“Hub-tones!” someone yelled. Hubbard’s already-sinister frown turned vicious. “Too fast,” he grumbled.

Leave the trumpet for five years, man, and it leaves you, he thought. All these fucking people, only here to say they saw me before I kick off. They don’t wanna hear me play just like I don’t wanna try anymore. Let’s end this shit. “Red Clay.”

Probably better if they can’t even hear me, he thought. An idea hit.

The bassline kicked in, and Freddie Hubbard, without a doubt one of the greatest and most versatile jazz trumpeters of all time, puckered his withered lips against his horn, hunched over, and angrily mimicked the motions of a trumpet solo the only possible way he could: in absolute silence.


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5 comments

  1. Mikey
    April 5, 2008

    I saw the first show. Very mixed feelings. While nice to see Freddie Hubbard after over 30 years (Keystone Korner), it was sad to see the shadow of the man. No more languid, melodic lines… he played with that “It Sucks To Be Me” lament that the review captures. George Cables and Lennie White, on the other hand, still had their chops, and Bobby Hutcherson was nice to see. David Weiss was a disappointment as a sideman and arranger. Granted, Freddie couldn’t blow, but a Freddie Hubbard group with no lead trumpet at all? And the intros, supposedly charted, were messy. Greg Handy was good, though, leading one to believe that this was a jam session with good side men in honor of Freddie, and not much more. I guess I can accept that, but barely.

    Reply
  2. Dan
    April 6, 2008

    I have to agree with the reviewer and also the reply. It was very sad to see Freddie up there on the first night, struggling to get out any notes at all on his trumpet. I am sure he needs the
    money, and would like to be able to play again if only he could. I really feel for him. I have seen him over the years (when he could play) and he was truly fantastic. And he has a great legacy of music on records and CD’s. It just shows that we all get old and can’t do what we were able to
    do at a younger age. I wish Freddie would play piano (instead of trumpet). He used to be a good
    player on the piano, and maybe he could find his musical outlet on the piano.

    Dan

    Reply
  3. ted
    April 7, 2008

    I saw Freddie on Friday night- both sets. To say I was dissappointed wouldn’t be quite right- disheartened was more like it. I flew out from Florida for three sets of this mess, but ended up getting a refund for the Saturday night performance. I don’t think I could have stomached another second watching one of my musical heroes so obviously tortured by his inability to play while jealously watching his contemporaries shred like it was 1965. I would have preferred watching Freddie lead the band and talk about his music. The trumpet player was completely forgettable- he played so loudly and with such tension. No phrasing here- just a litany of tasteless chromatic runs- awful. Just pop 1991′s (?) Keystone bop recording to hear Hubbard’s swan song. I’m sorry to say it but there’s no comeback for him. He’s physically, emotionally and spiritually spent.

    Reply
  4. cecilia
    April 20, 2008

    i would have felt better about going to bennefit for this man than to go to a performance where he had to pretend to play.

    Reply
  5. Jon Silence
    April 25, 2008

    I’m a huge Freddie fan and would’ve gone to this gig had I known about it. Looks like its a good thing I didn’t. I saw him for his 60th birthday celebration in L.A. ten years ago. It was an odd low-budget affair that took place in the sketchy Liemert Park area. A long program of semi-pro artists with the great heart and intent, but the music was what you’d expect: not much. It was all rather embarrassing and amateurish but I waited it out because Freddie was advertised as a participant. Well, he did show up finally and seemed in good spirits. And he did play…piano. And not what I’d call very good piano either. And he didn’t even do much of that. I sat there thinking, hoping, that he’d pick up his horn and rip into ‘Gibraltar’ any minute. But no such luck. It was a disappointing experience to say the least for someone like me who never got to see him when he was together. But he’s the last of the living greats. His legacy even now is monumental. I guess this would all be far less painful to those who love him if he were humble, gracious, and appreciative. Let’s pray for Freddie. God knows he need it.

    Reply

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