Visiting Santa Barbara

June is the month for graduations, Fathers Day, weddings, and for jazz and blues lovers-it's The Playboy Jazz Festival. Significantly, its lineup has variations of jazz for hardcore and knowledgeable aficionados. Yet, the festival is also balanced with funk, R&B, world music and lighter fare for those new to jazz, and/or people who come more for the occasion rather than the music. Either way, anyone attending can’t help but be moved by the incredible artistry taking place at the legendary Hollywood Bowl during the second weekend in June.

In recent years several tributes and celebrations for artists who recently passed away have occurred. Among them were bandleader/composer/arranger Gerald Wilson, jazz-pop singer Al Jarreau and jazz-funk keyboardist/singer/producer George Duke. Uniquely, this year the Playboy Jazz Festival will focus on someone who died nearly ten years ago—trumpet/flugelhorn player Freddie Hubbard (April 7, 1938 – December 29, 2008). Hubbard was a masterful and dynamic musician whose talent spanned the eras of bebop, hard bop, free jazz and post-bop. Additionally, the trumpeter/flugelhorn player worked with legends Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, Oliver Nelson, Quincy Jones, Wayne Shorter, Sonny Rollins and Herbie Hancock before embarking on an outstanding solo career.

Hubbard’s 1970’s popular solo recordings Red Clay, Sky Dive, Straight Life were released at the height of his artistic creativity and included Grammy-winning First Light. “It’s great music, where we come from and people want to hear them,” cited David Weiss trumpeter/leader of Hubtones: Freddie Hubbard’s 80th Birthday Celebration. Other players in the ensemble are trumpeters Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker and Jeremy Pelt, along with Benny Green-piano, Vicente Archer-bass and Roy McCurdy-drums.

Weiss presently a member of the hard-driving Cookers band worked with Hubbard during the last eight years of his life. He has participated in several other tribute/celebrations for his former bandleader and also for other iconic trumpeters such as Clifford Brown and Lee Morgan. “We’ve always done them in New York, either at Birdland or the Iridium. Usually they’re a weeklong for whatever year it is, 70th birthday, 75th … For Freddie’s 70th I did the shows with him in the Bay Area and at Catalina’s in Hollywood. His chops were diminished a bit, but it was a good presentation and a young band played his music well,” the trumpeter recalled. He was at the JFK Airport in New York prior to a London flight, part of a 10-day tour in Europe with the Cookers.  

Upon returning to the U.S. the trumpeter will perform in the SF Bay Area with his own sextet and also will be part of The Healdsburg Jazz Festival All-Stars prior to the Southern California engagement. Regarding the PBJ set Weiss explained how the group selected from Hubbard’s catalogue. “Through group email we all came to consensus of what we wanted to do. We picked the obvious ones like ‘Red Clay’ and ‘Birdlike,’ also ‘D Minor Mint’ from a Blue Note record called Breaking Point and ‘Up Comes Spring’ another big hit of his. So for 45 minutes, that’s probably what we’ll play, maybe eight or nine tunes. But we don’t really want to predetermine that much of what’s going to happen. So you have a little rehearsal, and you see where the magic is and you lean to that.”  
Besides being a phenomenal trumpet player Hubbard was a very articulate and sweet sounding flugelhorn player. Weiss who described himself as being a “compassionate ring leader” wasn’t sure if there would be time to include the instrument and he wasn’t going to demand anyone play it. At the same time, he felt that if any of the trumpeters were going to play flugelhorn it probably would be Brecker, who is one the most versatile of all the trumpeters.

Needless to say, the tribute horn players were greatly influenced and impacted by Hubbard, who along with Miles Davis, Lee Morgan and Clifford Brown is considered one of the most important trumpeters in jazz. “Of course, he was one of the most natural talents we’ve ever seen,” Weiss commented. “But he worked hard, really hard and he expected that of everyone. There were stories about him kicking guys off the stage and riding them to do things a certain way—but in his way he was right. In his later years he was lot more tolerant and I wished he had been tougher to motivate the guys more.

“{Contrarily} he was a joker and was funny as hell. I got to know him pretty well. He had a heart and cared about the people around him,  and also about jazz and how it was presented in the world, especially his music.” Concluding, Weiss summed up Hubbard’s
artistry, “He could play the most complex thing in the world, but he could also have an audience in the palm of hand, like a festival with 10 to 20 thousand people. It’s a different process now and Freddie Hubbard defined the ‘golden era’ of jazz through his
compositions, playing and presence.  He had the sound and could play anything from bebop to free jazz and {even top-selling mainstream}.” Unquestionably, Hubbard who used to live in the hills above the Hollywood Bowl will be looking down to see former
sideman and protégé playing his music.

Artists: June 9th 2018

Lee Ritenour and Dave Grusin
Anthony Hamilton
Snarky Puppy
The Miles Electric Band
The Edmar Castaneda Quartet with Special Guest Grégoire Maret
Daymé Arocena
Roy Gaines & His Orchestra Tuxedo Blues
The Matthew Whitaker Trio
Monsieur Periné
The LA County High School for the Arts Jazz
George Lopez Master of Ceremonies

Artists: June 10, 2018

The Ramsey Lewis Quintet
Jazmine Sullivan
Charles Lloyd & The Marvels with special guest Lucinda Williams – Featuring Bill Frisell, Stuart Mathis, Reuben Rogers, Eric Harland
Tower of Power - 50th Anniversary 2018
Hubtones: Freddie Hubbard’s 80th Birthday Celebration - Featuring David Weiss, Nicholas Payton, Randy Brecker, Jeremy Pelt, Benny Green, Vicente Archer, Roy McCurdy
The Count Basie Orchestra under the direction of Scotty Barnhart
Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano
Parlor Social with Dessy Di Lauro x Ric’key Pageot
The LAUSD/Beyond the Bell All-City Jazz Big Band - Under the direction of Tony White and J.B. Dyas
George Lopez Master of Ceremonies

40th annual Playboy Jazz Festival
June 9-10, 2018
Hollywood Bowl
2301 N Highland Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90068

40th Playboy Jazz Festival tribute to Freddie Hubbard

David Weiss

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