hubtonic progressions: remembering freddie

January 1, 2009 at 4:57 am | Posted in Black Folks | 5 Comments

pp. i was scrolling through the “all-too-many-feeds” i subscribed to in google reader (like i’m really gonna read them all in this life-time) and caught a glimpse of a black and white youtube clip of freddie hubbard put up by hip hop is read. seemingly random and pleasant, i thought. hmm (mental sigh), i’ll star this and check it out later. never considered what youtube might have had on my all-time favorite brass player. kept perusing, starring other stories i may want to read later, “whoa, freddie again? does he have a new album?” rest.

f. and then i read the title: “for they reminisce over you…freddie hubbard”. this soulful brother had passed. my mind signaled right and moved into memory lane…

dissonance. i started trumpet at 8 years old. my grade school was starting a music program and i was open, day-dreaming about wooing a sardine-can packed audience with my ill arpeggios. i just knew i would be a sax player or maybe even get busy on the snare. but when my moms “persuaded ” me to consider the trumpet, in her “we can’t afford the other instruments, love” tone i was slightly disappointed. well, at least being in band would get me out of a boring class period. oh yeah! and i remember how cool dizzy gilespie seemed puffing his elastic cheeks out behind that bent-up horn of his in stevie wonderful’s, “do i do”. while trumpet was the more affordable choice , it was also the most demanding. with only three keys, searching but never quite finding the right note was common. so you have to get the sound right in your mind before the air even leaves your lips. the sax players didn’t have any problems like that, and they had something called a reed. “how come i don’t get a reed?” mistakes, disappointment and discouragement came frequently. fleeting embrochure, excruciating posture, shortness of breath in mid-note, the designated back row for trumpet players, smelly valve oil, spit valves. and then i found out that the dizzy gillespie’s bloated cheek technique was a cardinal no-no. ergh. rest. i was all but ready to give it up, but with

. some encouragement from great-grandad, trombonist/pianist/bandleader and my uncle, pianist/music producer,  i stuck with the “concert band thing” well up in to high school.  refrain. my spirits rose and notes became  easier to catch & hold by then -not to mention the ladies playing clarinet were quite the inspiration for the kid. nevertheless, there were still plenty of disappointment there: upper classmen were guaranteed 1st trumpet and solo parts, did i mention spit valves, and the music was uhm…wack getting boring. (there were no blue notes in “olympic spirit“). the coolest things we played were the theme songs to “mission: impossible” and “the pink panther”.

harmony. but there was an experience that made everything kinda connect for me. i found a new peace and joy in my brass. one day while “diggin’ in the crate” of my vinyl inheritance, i came across an album with an eerie red-orange sunset. i don’t recall ever seeing it 

before. and although the only names i recognized were herbie hancock and ron carter (as if that weren’t enough) i was drawn to it. a couple seconds passed of the vastly satisfying crackling that comes from playing album and then it happened. the hairs on the back on my neck were electrified as the sequences of staccatic shrills came through the speakers.  how did he take it so high? why did it sound so easy? and then it kept happening.  the bassline: wtf! ain’t that the sample from the tribe joint? 

“..i start to flinch as i try not to say, but my lips is like a oop-whop as i start to spray it…i throw the sucka in the front for the ones that front”. 

yooooo! and while their sample was cleverly timed for the compulsory stank-faced, head nod one gives when in audience of a dope track, it in no way did justice to the arrangements of its immortal parent: red clay. clean, perfect breaths, masterfully constructed conversation. i was paralyzed in bliss. it was the dopest thing i ever heard and i was upset about it. i felt like someone hid this from me. maybe no one knew, and i discovered this. nah, ali shaheed knew and if i read liner notes, i might have known sooner. i was musically reborn. baptized in a sense. i dug up everything i could on mr. hubbard: little sunflower, caravan, body & soul.  i practiced more, imitating him (almost caught a conniption while trying to transpose one of his solos – big mistake). he introduced me to the lovely  e. dorian and the always comforting f. lydian. and even in his later years, when he could only play flügelhorn i still was tryna get my hubtonic flow just right. 

coda. this past year, and particularly this time of year, plenty of great people – musicians, fathers, mothers, actresses, leaders and countless unsung heroes – made transition (remember the godfather). however, i did want to acknowledge the impact freddie hubbard had on me. i fell in love with music again when i listen to him. p.s. didn’t hear the alternate take to red clay until i was an adult. he did it again. keep inspiring. thank you. safe transition. freddie hubbard. rest.



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  1. Legend.

  2. I didn’t know you played trumpet. Beautiful post.

  3. in sporadic fits nowadays. a delicate balance of dust (in the off season) and moist spit valves (in the on). my teachers would kill me 🙂

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