Jazz Notes, April 2009 

Regional musicians weigh in on Hubbard's legacy

A special tribute concert held Friday, April 3 honored the vast contributions Indy native and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard made to the world of jazz. Hubbard died in December 2008. A gathering of five jazz trumpeters - some local, some regional, some national - were on hand to pay homage to their instrumental hero. The Jazz Kitchen was filled to capacity when Derrick Gardner, Mike Hackett, Pat Harbison, Clifford Ratliff and Pharez Whitted stepped onto the stage. They were backed up by Indy's foremost rhythm section of pianist Steve Allee, bassist Frank Smith and drummer Kenny Phelps.

The eight performers launched into "Hubtones," the first of an evening's worth of Hubbard's classic jazz compositions. Gardner wasted no time, throwing down a blistering solo that set the pace for the rest of the trumpeters. Each player responded in his own distinctive sound and contrasting style. They played at the top of their game, much to the delight of the crowd.

I wanted to know what Freddie Hubbard meant to each trumpeter and what impact he had on their playing. They were still reeling from the performance when I caught up with them during a break.

Derrick Gardner: "Words cannot describe Freddie's impact and influence on my playing on many levels, first as a trumpeter. As a musician, he was the ultimate technician. People tend to think of jazz musicians as not having great technique, as street musicians. Freddie Hubbard didn't embody any of that. He played the trumpet to the highest level of technique. He had incredible soulfulness and feeling on the horn. You combine that with being extremely proficiency on the instrument - he was a terror. As a young musician hearing those qualities was incredibly impacting on me - I tried to emulate that. You hear that Freddie Hubbard influence in all of our playing. You can't sound like yourself until you sound like somebody else. Freddie Hubbard's thing was so hypnotic, it's hard to get away from him sometimes. Even tonight when I played, I know I played some verbatim Freddie Hubbard things."

Mike Hackett: "Freddie was my hero ever since I first learned to play jazz. At one point, when I was in high school going into college, I think I had 20 Freddie Hubbard records and virtually nothing of anybody else. He was my hero and still is."

Pat Harbison: "I think Freddie was probably the single biggest influence on my playing. When I was a teenager I decided to be a musician. I went from being a Reggie Jackson fan to being a young musician who followed Freddie Hubbard. I collected Freddie Hubbard like I used to collect Reggie Jackson. He completely transformed my life. When I was 16 years old, that's what I wanted to grow up to be."

Clifford Ratliff: "Freddie was one of the most outstanding trumpeters of this millennium. When I first saw Freddie at Mr. B's club on 30th Street, I was about 15. I had to stand in the back window just to get a look at him. Ever since then he's inspired me to keep right on going."

Pharez Whitted: "Freddie was probably my biggest influence - my hero - partially because he was from Indianapolis. Everybody talks about him after hearing him play. There was nobody that even came close to him. The beautiful thing about the period he was in was the fact nobody sounded like anybody else - they were all individuals. Freddie created his own thing, which was so amazing. There was no way you could think somebody could come up with something so original and beautiful that was everything to me. My father played with him too; that was also inspirational to me. He was also a beautiful individual to talk with; he would sit and talk with me. It was a pleasure."


Sunday, April 26, a Life Celebration will be held for jazz pianist Trotty Heck at the Jazz Kitchen from 4-7 p.m. Heck passed away Feb. 19. A Ball State music scholarship will be announced in his name at the celebration.

Jazz singer Rita Reed Allen passed away April 9.


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