Here, There & Everywhere: Freddie Hubbard

December 30, 2008

By Don Heckman


Freddie Hubbard

I’ve written a lot of obituaries for the Los Angeles Times.  Most deal with the passing of folks either directly or indirectly connected to the world of jazz.  And most, therefore, are artists whose music I’ve known, loved and respected for many years.  As such, each obit, as I write it, generates a multiplicity of feelings: the first time I heard someone’s music; the impact of a special song or recording; a recollection of having interviewed the person; a sense – in many cases – of the way in which their passing represents the end of an era.

All those feelings were present yesterday when I wrote the obituary for Freddie Hubbard.  I’ve been listening to his music for more than forty years, and was awe-struck by almost everything I heard.  Yes, I was a bit disappointed with some of the later CTI recordings; but so was Freddie, himself.  But the correct perspective on his remarkable career returns when you hear his work from the ’60s, in which he moved, with astonishing ease from settings that included Ornette Coleman’s double quartet, Eric Dolphy’s “Out To Lunch,” John Coltrane’s “Ascension,” Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil,” Oliver Nelson’s “Blues and the Abstract Truth,” Herbie Hancock’s ‘Maiden Voyage.”  As well, of course, as his extended gig with Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.

Maybe there’s someone out there who can suggest another trumpeter who could have handled that range of musical assignments.  I can’t imagine who it would be.

The last time I  heard Freddie was in April, when he played at Catalina Bar & Grill with The New Jazz Composers Octet – the ensemble led by David Weiss as a Hubbard showcase.  It wasn’t the old Freddie, of course, and there were moments that made one wince, while simultaneously honoring him for getting out there and laying himself on the line.  And doing so at a time when his damaged chops could not always reproduce the imaginings of his never-failing, ever-active musical creativity.

Freddie was one of a kind, one of the magical characters who are the true originals, inventing their own worlds, allowing us the pleasure – and the privilege – of sharing their unique adventures.

A Personal Reminiscence


Heckman and Hubbard

Decades ago, I was fortunate to be a student at the Lenox School of Jazz’s summer program, and doubly lucky to be playing in the ensemble that also included Freddie Hubbard.  There were some pretty good players in that ensemble.  Trombonist Mike Gibbs went on to become a very successful composer/arranger; the envelope-stretching tenor saxophonist Ed Summerlin also composed some of the finest jazz liturgical music; the MJQ’s Connie Kay played drums.  Yet all of us – as well as such other attendees as Don Ellis, David Baker, Gary McFarland, Hal McKinney and Jamie Aebersold (to mention only a few) – were astonished by Freddie’s free flying displays of sheer talent on the wing.

I remember the rehearsals (here pictured) with special glee because of the opportunities to have fun trading licks – with Freddie, of course, always triumphing.  There’s a recording of the final night’s concert.  And I listened to it again, today, for the first time in years.  Although the sound quality leaves something to be desired, I cherish every aspect of that memorable evening, of sitting alongside Freddie Hubbard, charging forward in the rhythmic wake of his amazing trumpet.


Funeral Services for Freddie Hubbard will take place on

Tuesday, January 6, 2009 at
Faithful Central Bible Church
The Tabernacle
321 N. Eucalyptus Avenue
Inglewood, CA  90301
(310) 330- 8000
Viewing 11 am- 1 pm
Service 1 pm

Picks of the Week: Dec. 29 – Jan. 4

December 29, 2008


Los Angeles

– Dec. 30 & 31. (Tues. & Wed.)  Roslyn Kind. Don’t let the fact that she’s Barbra Streisand’s kid sister fool you.  Roslyn is definitely one of a Kind.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.


James Moody


Barbara Morrison

–  Dec. 31. (Wed.)  The James Moody, Kenny Burrell & Benny Green All-Star Quintet bring in the New Year with a healthy toast of bebop and straight ahead. The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.

– Dec. 31. (Wed.)  New Year’s Eve with Pink Martini.  Expect a little something for every taste – from Brazilian samba and Parisian cabaret to classical chamber music and Afro-Cuban rhythms..  Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

–  Dec. 31. (Wed.)  New Year’s Eve with Barbara Morrison, the one and only blues, ballad and bop singer for all seasons.   Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 31. (Wed.)   Don Menza, John Heard, Roy McCurdy and Tom Ranier – an all-star jam to welcome 2009.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

-Dec. 31. (Wed.)   The Wailers.  The iconic Jamaican reggae band — now featuring Elan — performs, in its entirety, “Exodus,” the recording that TIME magazine called “Album of the Century” in 1999.  Special guests include Tomorrow’s Bad Seeds and DJ White Lightning.    The Roxy.  (310) 276-2222.

San Francisco

-Dec. 31.  (Wed.)  Seventies funkmeister George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic with The Greyboy Allstars.  The Warfield.  Ticketmaster: (415) 421-TIXS.  Info:

– Dec. 31 (Wed.)  Roy Hargrove‘s sterling trumpet and effervescent Big Band. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

– Dec. 31. (Wed.)  Eddie Palmieri‘ inimitable percussion with La Perfecta II.  Yoshi’s San Francisco.  (415) 655-5600.

New York


Hilary Kole

– Dec. 31. (Wed.)  Hilary Kole‘s warm voice and insightful musicality should make a fascinating mix with the Chico O’Farrill Afro Cuban Jazz Orchestra.  Birdland.  (212) 581-3080.

Dec. 31. (Wed.)  Chris Botti and an all-star aggregation of Mark Whitfield, Billy Childs and Robert Hurst with a toneful and tuneful welcoming of Baby 2009. He continues through Sunday.  The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.


Los Angeles

– Jan. 2. (Fri.)  Pianist Alan Broadbent, bassist Putter Smith and drummer Kendall Kay in a display of jazz at its elegant, articulate best.  The Jazz Bakery  (310) 271-9039.


Robben Ford

– Jan. 2 – 4. (Fri. – Sun.)  Robben Ford showcases his blues, crossover and funk-driven guitar stylings. (323) 466-2210.

Jan. 2 & 3. (Fri. & Sat.)  Lanny Morgan (Fri.) and Plas Johnson (Sat.) kick off a month in which Fridays and Saturdays at Charlie O’s are devoted to the jazz saxophone.  Charlie O’s.  (818) 994-3058.

San Francisco

– Jan. 2 – 4  (Fri. – Sun.)  Pharoah Sanders‘ tenor saxophone keeps the Coltrane legacy alive. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

Live: The Filipino-American Jazz Festival

December 28, 2008

By Don Heckman

Jazz singer Mon David had barely gotten into the second chorus of “Footprints” Saturday night when my wife turned to me and whispered, “Isn’t jazz wonderful?”  No revelation there, of course, but I knew exactly what she was talking about.  There we were, in the warm and welcoming environs of Catalina Bar & Grill, L.A.’s premiere jazz supper club, listening to a performer from the Philippines, embracing jazz as an utterly personal expression of who he is and where he comes from.

The event was the 4th Annual Filipino American Jazz Festival – a celebration of a seemingly unlikely blend of cultural expressions.  And, by the time the long, entertaining evening was over, the unlikeliness was wiped away by both the impressive array of talent and the incomparable capacity of jazz to serve as a creative vehicle for artistry of every imaginable source.


Mon David

Mon David, the winner of London’s first International Jazz Vocalist Competition in 2006, didn’t stop with his unique take on Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints.”  His reading of Abbey Lincoln’s touching, too rarely heard “Throw It Away” found the song’s beating heart.  And here, as elsewhere in his set, his remarkable voice, able to leap octaves in a single bound, combined with an utterly original approach to scat singing to establish him as a jazz talent with a  big future.


Charmaine Clamor

Singer Charmaine Clamor, perhaps the most visible Filipino jazz artist on the current scene, affirmed her desire to maintain a strong connection with her roots as she grows and develops as a jazz artist.  The set began with a selection from her new CD, “My Harana: A Filipino Serenade,” a collection of traditional courtship serenades, rendered in jazz settings. She followed with her unusual version of “My Funny Valentine,” which she titles “My Funny Brown Pinay,” transforming the Rodgers & Hart standard into an affirmation of Philippine beauty.  And she wound up her brief, but brilliantly eclectic set with a romp through the jazz standard, “Centerpiece.”  In each case, her singing underscored her growing status as one of the important and original new jazz singers of the decade.

Jon Irabagon

Jon Irabagon

Alto saxophonist Jon Irabagon‘s high spirited program displayed most of the reasons why he was the winner in this year’s Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition.  He displayed his  startling technical virtuosity in a romp through “Just One of Those Things” that somehow was kicked off at such a rapid tempo that it startled Irabagon, as well as his back-up trio.  But no problem, the Autobahn twists and turns were negotiated with the same imaginative ease that Irabagon brought to his articulate blues soloing on Wayne Shorter’s “Charcoal Blues” and dark-toned balladry on Billy Eckstine’s “I Want To Talk About You.”

Also on the bill – pianist Tateng Katindig, a regular on the L.A. jazz front, revealed the speed and the fluency, if not always the sensitivity, of his Oscar Peterson influences: Bo Razon showcased his percussion versatility; and the Ben Luis Collective somehow managed to impart some needed Filipino seasoning to a program of smooth contemporary jazz sounds.

All of it, as my wife so spontaneously pointed out, was indeed wonderful – convincing testimony to the pleasures of what Charmaine Clamor colorfully and accurately describes as the new genre of  “Jazzipino” music.

Here, There and Everywhere: Eartha Kitt

December 26, 2008

By Don Heckman

The first reviews I wrote about Eartha Kitt for the Los Angeles Times were in the early ’90s.  She’d been a major star for a good four decades at that time, a success in virtually every medium she’d encountered.  As early as 1950, she’d been cast as Helen of Troy by Orson Welles in his Parisian production of “Time Runs.”


Eartha Kitt

When I heard that she’d passed away yesterday, at 81, of colon cancer, my first reaction was “No…no… it’s too soon.”  Too soon for a spirit as dynamic and alive as Eartha Kitt’s to leave, too soon to believe that anything could take down this extraordinary woman – who was simply one of the most alive persons I’d ever had the good fortune to know.

Eartha, the little girl who was born on a hardscrabble South Carolina cotton farm, the school dropout who went from factory jobs to a scholarship position with the Katherine Dunham dance company, was on Broadway (and in the subsequent film) with “New Faces of 1952,” and topping the record charts thereafter with such offbeat hits as “Santa Baby,” “C’est Si Bon” and “Huska Dara.”  She won two Emmy Awards and several Grammy nominations, and was a memorable Cat Woman in the sixties’ “Batman” television series.  She was in the films “Anna Lucasta” (with Sammy Davis, Jr.), ‘St. Louis Blues” (with Nat Cole” “The Mark of the Hawk” ) with Sidney Poitier, earned Tony nominations for the musical “Timbuktu!” in 1978 and “The Wild Party” in 2000 and was on Broadway as recently as October 2003 in a revival of “Nine.”  And that’s just a small, partial list of her credits.

I knew her best in her cabaret persona, reviewing her or writing features about her virtually every time she made the trek to L. A. in the late eighties, the nineties and the early two thousands.  And experiencing her up close and personal in rooms such as the old Cinegrill, was an experience to be savored, when she stalked the stage like a feral feline, scaring the hell out of any man sitting at a front row table, utterly defining the intensity, the passion, the whimsy and the inner drama that cabaret is all about.

Although she lived her life, publicly and on stage, as a diva, I saw her – in the few conversations and interviews I had with her – as quiet, vulnerable even a little shy, at times.  But it was also clear that she knew exactly who Eartha Kitt was, and that she worked every aspect of that amazing creation to the absolute limit.  As, I suspect, she would have done, no matter what her work may have been.

“Look,’ she once told me, “I’m just happy to be working at all. The problem is that we are not taught to have self value. We are not taught that any kind of work is respectable work to be doing. In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a meager job.”

Nor was there ever anything meager, or less than superb, about what Kitt put into her art.  And Welles was right on target, as he so often was, when she was still barely into her twenties, and he said, “Eartha Kitt is the most exciting performer in the world.”

CD Review: The Big Phat Band

December 26, 2008

“Act Your Age” (Immergent)

By Devon Wendell

We jazz purists in pursuit of the next revolutionary original sound sometimes forget to curb our obsessive-compulsive enthusiasm and simply enjoy some fun music. Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band’s multi-Grammy nominated album “Act Your Age” is simply fun – which may be exactly what we need during these turbulent times.

gordon-goodwonProduced by Lee Ritenour, Dan Savant, and Goodwin himself, “Act Your Age” is the fourth album by this popular Southern California native and his band. Goodwin is a triple threat, playing tenor and soprano sax as well as piano over some well thought-out, funky big band arrangements.  The Big Phat Band’s stellar horn section includes familiar West Coast players such as trumpeter Wayne Bergeron, saxophonist Eric Marienthal, and trombonist Andy Martin.  There are also several special guests.  Ritenour lends his tasty guitar skills to a revamping of the Earth, Wind and Fire classic “September,” with Patti Austin on vocals.  Other guests performers include Chick Corea, Dave Grusin, and Nathan East.

Goodwin’s boldest and most satisfying move, however, is “Yesterday,” in which Art Tatum’s piano track is overdubbed with full band backing. Although the jazz world has been saturated with take after take of the Kern and Harbach standard, Goodwin’s experiment is surprisingly the album’s highlight, with an original Goodwin arrangement that showcases the dynamics of the Big Phat Band’s horns with Tatum’s remarkable piano work.

Like many of the pieces, the opening Goodwin original, “Hit The Ground Running,” feels like a cross between something from Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters period and Quincy Jones 90’s slick pop/funk orchestral explorations. Goodwin’s tenor playing, which weaves in and out of the big brass arrangements, is stylistically close to that of David Sandborn’s more polished works, but effective enough not to distract from the buoyancy of the composition.  Curiously, the Big Phat Band’s take on “Watermelon Man” sounds less like a direct nod to Hancock than some of the album’s other tracks – though Herbie’s influence is continuously evident in Goodwin’s piano work, which comes off much stronger than his sax solos.

Bottom line: Goodwin isn’t setting out to be the next Coltrane or  Ellington, but this good time music arrives at precisely the right time.

Humor: Jazz musicians Look to Federal Budget For Bailout Support

December 23, 2008

Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by jackzucker at The Gear Page ( that tells it like it really is.  To read the entire hilarious post, click here:

Washington, D.C.  In light of the recent downturn in the American economy, the nation’s jazz musicians have joined the long line of lobby groups looking to Washington for support as the economy slides into a deepening recession.

The jazz industry is asking Washington for a bailout package and major subsidies on par with that of the auto sector.

As such, jazz musicians also want access to credit and tax breaks to stimulate investment and help the development of new recording and performance opportunities.

“This recession has really got me dragged, ya dig?” says Luther “Hip Bones” Jones III, a New York City saxophonist and a cornerstone of the little known Wall Street Avant-Garde jazz scene. “I mean, now that gigs aren’t flowin’ like they used to, I actually have to get up before noon and find a way to make some coin!”

Similarly, Jones’ associate Willie “Fat Cheeks” Hughes comments that with the economy in near chaos, the demand for his jazz bagpipe skills has waned considerably.  Hughes also noted that with a sluggish economic situation, he will soon have to find another girlfriend or else face certain “homelessness.”

While this crisis has been brewing for some time, a recent spike in the number of trombonists delivering pizzas in New York’s Greenwich Village has brought this dire situation to the public’s attention…

Picks of the Week: Dec. 22 – 28

December 22, 2008

Los Angeles

– Dec. 22. (Mon.) Count Basie Orchestra. “A Swingin’ Christmas.” Only three or four of the players in the current Basie Orchestra ever actually worked with the Count, but under the direction of Bill Hughes, the ensemble brings the familiar Basie groove to a collection of jaunty holiday tunes. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.


Soweto Gospel Choir

– Dec. 23. (Tues.) Soweto Gospel Choir. The irresistible spirituality of this superb collection of South African singers adds a new slant to the music of the season. Walt Disney Concert Hall. (323) 850-2000.

– Dec. 23. (Tues.) Johnny Vana’s Big Band Alumni with singer Bonnie Bowden. Probably the only opportunity in the Southland to hear some classic big band Swing era hits with your morning ham and eggs, and mid-day brunch. Bonnie Bowden adds her own delightful vocal stylings. Las Hadas Mexican Restaurant and Cantina. 9048 Balboa Blvd., Northridge. (818) 8927271. 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

– Dec. 26. (Fri.) Banu Gibson. She’s known for her convincing takes on New Orleans jazz, but Gibson’s style reaches far beyond the Crescent City. Expect to hear an evening of standards reaching across five decades, all performed with her inimitable enthusiasm. The Jazz Bakery (310) 271-9039.


Charmaine Clamor

– Dec. 27. (Sat.) 4th Annual Filipino-American Jazz Festival. It’s no news that Filipino artists, over the past decade, have thoroughly established their credibility as jazz artists. But it’s still fascinating to hear the unique slant they bring to their music. The headliners for this growingly popular event include singers Charmaine Clamor and Mon David, pianist Tateng Katendig, the six-piece Ben Luis Collective, multi-instrumentalist Bo Razon and saxophonist Jon Irabagon, winner of the 2008 Thelonious Monk Competition.   Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210. Photo Ned Vizmanos

– Dec. 27. (Sat.) Larry Karush Comprovisations for Solo Piano. The title has it right. What pianist Karush offers is a set of music that blends spontaneous compositions and improvisations. The results are usually unexpected, always compelling. Café Metropol.….

– Dec. 28. (Sun.) Josh Nelson and Pat Senatore Duo. Nelson, one of the Southland’s most gifted up and coming pianists, in a fascinating musical partnership with the dependable, always swinging bassist Senatore. Vibrato. (310) 474-9400.

– Dec. 28 (Sun.)  Lorraine Feather and Shelly Berg.  It’s a perfect combination: the literate, witty lyrics and buoyantly rhythmic singing of Feather and the superbly supportive, harmonically imaginative piano of Berg.  One show only.  Catalina Bar & Grill.  (323) 466-2210.

San Francisco

– Dec. 26 – 31. (Sun. – Wed.) Roy Hargrove Big Band. Trumpeter Hargrove brings his swinging charts and driving musical collective to a run that climaxes on New Year’s Eve. Yoshi’s Oakland. . (510) 238-9200.

New York City

– Dec. 22 – 28. (except for Christmas, Dec. 25) (Mon. – Sun.) Barbara Carroll Trio with Ken Peplowski. A pair of engaging veterans bring their Swing based styles – featuring Carroll’s vocals and piano, with Peplowski’s clarinet and tenor saxphone – to a program of classic jazz. Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola. (212) 258-9595.


Chris Botti

– Dec. 23 – 31. (Tues. – Wed.31). Chris Botti. Trumpeter Botti’s beginning to look like the hardest working man in jazz. After two sell-out weeks at Yoshi’s Oakland and San Francisco, he’s following up with another long run at the Blue Note. And his fans will love the opportunity to hear his soaringly lyrical playing up close and personal. The Blue Note. (212) 475-8592.

– Dec. 26 & 27. (Fri. & Sat.) Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Adderly Legacy. Drummer Hayes and his sterling quintet recall the best of the Cannonball memories. Birdland. (212) 581-3080.

– Dec. 26 & 27. (Fri. &Sat.) The Fab Faux perform the Beatles’ Abbey Road, Let It Be and the White Album. Expect to hear startlingly accurate versions of “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “I Am the Walrus.” “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” “Because,” “Nowhere Man” and “Paperback Writer.” Terminal 5. (212) 665-3832.

– Dec. 27. (Sat.) Nanette Natal. Critically praised from all directions, singer Natal still hasn’t received the attention that her singular talent deserves. Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church in the Bowerie. (212) 674-8112


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