The Jazz.com Blog
December 30, 2008 · 6 comments
The jazz community knew that Freddie Hubbard's health was precarious after the heart attack he suffered the day before Thanksgiving, yet the news of his death is no less bitter.
This artist, with his passion, drive and commitment to excellence, exemplified jazz at its finest. Although Hubbard was loved and admired by many, I still can't help feeling that he rarely got the respect that was his due. Throughout his career, it seemed that there was always some fad or fashion going on elsewhere in the jazz world that distracted attention from the masters in our midst who didn't care to jump on the passing bandwagons. Certainly Hubbard was one of those masters.
Below Ralph Miriello remembers Hubbard, and some of the other notable figures from the world of jazz who left us during 2008. T.G.
The death of Freddie Hubbard, who passed away Monday morning in Sherman Oaks, California, was a terrible loss for the jazz world. As the year 2008 draws to an end, it is only fitting to pause to recall the contributions of this exceptional trumpeter, and the other members of the jazz community who left us during the course of the year. They will surely be missed but whose body of work and influence will last well into the future.
Here is my list of some notable musical passings that occurred this year and shouldn’t go by without respectful notice.
The most recent departure is one that we will lament for a long time to come. Freddie Hubbard had been a major presence on the jazz scene for the last half-century. His trumpet work will live on in the many classic recordings he left behind. These include not only his outstanding leader dates, but a host of sideman efforts: with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers; on numerous Blue Note releases alongside Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and others; on landmark dates as diverse as The Blues and the Abstract Truth and Ascension; with V.S.O.P. or battling trumpets with Woody Shaw; the list goes on. These sessions covered a wide swathe of musical terrain, but one thing was always certain: that Freddie Hubbard would raise the ante by his contribution to the proceedings.
We lost a triumvirate of saxophone masters when Jimmy Giuffre, Phil Urso and “The Little Giant” Johnny Griffin each left us.
Jimmy was a consummate multi-instrumentalist as well as a talented composer whose pioneering work with piano- and drum-less trios was the portal to different explorations by a whole stream of artists to follow his lead. He is revered for his big band compositional skills on such hits as Woody Herman’s anthem “Four Brothers” featuring Stan Getz, Herbie Stewart, Zoot Sims and Serge Chaloff. Jimmy was 86.
Phil Urso was a talented tenor saxophonist who was a proponent of the “cool school” sound and a disciple of Lester Young. His career included work alongside Miles Davis, Bob Brookmeyer and Chet Baker. Miles Davis, with whom Phil played for six months in 1954, purportedly liked Phil’s work because he had a “black” sound like Sonny Rollins. Phil was 82.
Known as “ the Little Giant” tenor man Johnny Griffin played the tenor saxophone like he was on fire. Once know as “the fastest gun in the west” for his proclivity to play so rapidly, he never let the speed get in the way of his ability to swing. A major force of the hard bop style, Griffin worked for a time with Thelonious Monk, Art Blakey and Miles Davis, as well as led his own ensembles. Johnny was 80 years old and died in France where he had made his home for the last 24 years.
Cuban bassist, composer and bandleader Israel “Cachao” López was credited with the creation of the Latin dance craze the Mambo with his 1939 tune of the same name. This eventually led to the whole salsa movement in Latin jazz. Jaco Pastorius reportedly once called “Cachao” the best bassist in the world and was supposedly influenced by him. López was 69 years of age and died in his adoptive home of Florida.
Guitarists were not immune to the grim reaper as we lost two fine ones in Hiram Bullock and Joe Beck. Hiram was a soulful sessions player that fused jazz, rock and soul into his sound which could be heard on famous tunes such as Steely Dan’s Gaucho , Billy Joel’s The Stranger or Sting’s Nothing Like The Sun. Hiram was only 52 years of age.
Joe Beck was a consummate professional who brought a sense of grace and style to whatever he played. He was credited as being the first guitarist in a Miles Davis band in 1967. He worked extensively as the guitarist in residence for the CTI label and can be heard as an important contributor on albums by likes of Laura Nyro, Joe Farrell, Stan Getz and Paul Desmond, to name a few. Joe died this year at the age of 62.
The trumpeters of the jazz world will know the name of Pete Candoli. He was the fiery high register specialist who played for as many as nine big bands during his illustrious career. His work with Woody Herman’s Herd as well as bands led by Tommy Dorsey and Stan Kenton allowed him space for his high register powerhouse atmospherics. He eventually collaborated steadily as a studio musician with Henry Mancini and is featured on his famous “Peter Gunn”. Pete died after a long illness this year at the age of 84.
Pianist Dave McKenna and B3 master Jimmy McGriff were also lost to us during the the last year. McKenna was best known for his work as a big band pianist with Woody Herman but also worked with small groups led by Stan Getz , Bob Wibur and Bobby Hackett. He was known for his powerful left handed bass lines. McKenna humbly considered himself a saloon player who liked to embellish the melodies of standard songs. Dave passed in Pennsylvania at the age of 78. Jimmy McGrff was one of “Big Three” on the Hammond B-3,along with fellow practitioners Jimmy Smith and Richard “Groove” Holmes. His infectious combination of blues, gospel and jazz influences was always cooking and always in the groove. Jimmy succumbed to the ravages of MS in Philadelphia this year at the age of 72.
Drummer Bobby Durham was the beat behind groups led by luminaries such as Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald. He is perhaps best known for his fine work as a member (along with bassist Ray Brown) of Oscar Peterson’s powerhouse trio. Bobby passed away in Italy at age 71.
Drummer Mitch Mitchell, of Jimi Hendix’s Experience fame, is perhaps an unlikely addition to this jazz based honorarium, but one could easily argue that Mitchell’s hard driving, solo-styled drumming was a pioneering effort in the rock venue that he took from his days with the jazz-based group Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. Mitch died in his hotel room in Portland, Oregon while touring with an Experience band that was bringing Hendrix’s music to a new generation of fans. John “Mitch” Mitchell was 61 years of age.
Finally William Claxton was not a musician but an important chronicler of musicians through the artistry of his photographs. Claxton managed to capture some of the most telling images of world of jazz music with his careful eye for light and his astute compositional sense. His famous photographs of Chet Baker helped to establish the then little known artist as a crossover star. Claxton's photographs brought jazz to life beyond its core culture and into the mainstream. William Claxton was 80 years old.
This blog entry posted by Ralph A. Miriello.