Before moving to New York City in the late 1950s, Hubbard was prominent in the legendary Indianapolis jazz scene centered around Indiana Avenue.
Indiana University School of Music Jazz Chairman David Baker taught Hubbard and also played with him in the Quincy Jones Band. He says Hubbard made a name for himself as a writer and as someone who’s improvisations would show up in other people’s work.
“He changed the way people the instrument. I told him once, that if he had a nickel for every time somebody played a thing he was responsible for introducing, he’d be a zillionaire,” Baker said.
Hubbard released many recordings on the iconic Blue Note label and charted more than a dozen jazz records in his career. He played with the likes of John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, McCoy Tyner, Art Blakey and Herbie Hancock. Baker says Hubbard’s contributions to jazz can’t be overstated.
“It’s a loss that’s beyond understanding. As far as I’m concerned, for about 15 years, in the mid 1960s until about 1980, Freddie Hubbard was the best trumpet player on the globe,” he said.
Although Hubbard achieved his greatest popular success in the 1970s, he continued playing until his health worsened in recent years. He even made a comeback last summer with an appearance at the Indianapolis Jazz Fest. Baker says Hubbard’s personality was as dynamic as his skill on the trumpet.
Freddie was just brash and talented enough that when he walked up to somebody like Sonny Rollins and said, ‘I’m the baddest trumpet player in New York,’ he might have been close to telling the truth,” Baker said.
In 2006, The National Endowment for the Arts honored Hubbard with its highest honor in jazz, and last year he was honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. for his contributions to jazz. Hubbard was 70 years old.