JAM, V: Freddie Hubbard on "Big Foot"

Every weekday this month I'll be posting new content in observance of Jazz Appreciation Month (J.A.M.), so-designated by the Smithsonian National Museum of American History beginning in 2001. International Jazz Day, so-designated by UNESCO in partnership with the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, is on the last day of April, the 30th; it was first celebrated in 2012. Debating the relative merits of designating specific days or months for celebrating heritages, traditions, and the like aside, Jazz Appreciation Month is at the very least an excuse to dig into some material that I've been interested in for a while on the blog. 

Friday's installment featured Gerry Mulligan playing "Sunday" and a two-tenor arrangement of "Tender Trap" with Charlie Rouse & Paul Quinichette. Tomorrow's will feature Bob Berg playing a solo and extended cadenza at the Monterey Jazz Festival with Chick's band.

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Wikimedia Commons
The vibe between Freddie Hubbard, born on this day in '38 (almost exactly one year older than Joe Henderson), and Wynton Marsalis was well-publicized, to say the least. It's recent history, but history enough that I never lived through any of it, although most of those a generation or two older than I all have their own recollections of the Young Lions '80s-'90s. From a '95 DownBeat article:

"Young players only get the exposure to the greats like Miles, Trane and Monk through records," he [Freddie] said."  

They've had no real experience with the real essence of those guys -- the way they help their instruments, the way they acted, what really caused this music. Most of the cats trying to play hardcore contemporary jazz don't have their own style. Or there are some people like Wynton [Marsalis] who play the horn, but don't play no hip jazz [emphasis added]. They're just into playing the instrument good. They're not creating ideas."

A friend recently shared with me a fascinating musical-historical document: a nine-minute excerpt from a live show in the '80s, allegedly at the Blue Note, where Wynton sits in with Freddie on a Bb blues. Wynton plays the head alone (Bird's "Big Foot," a.k.a. "Air Conditioning," a.k.a. "Drifting on a Reed," a.k.a. "Giant Swing," but primarily "Big Foot"*) as Freddie presumably steps aside to hear what the young trumpeter has to say. 

This is all speculation, of course, but to me Wynton sounds a little nervous. On the first pass through the head, before the rhythm section comes in, he drops a beat, which at first sounds like an intentional anticipation, but which never gets resolved; on the second time through, he anticipates and delays, but doesn't drop any beats. He takes a relatively short four-minute solo, at times going into odd-numbered eighth note groupings and also trading phrases with himself in separate octaves, but the band never seems to fully go in with him. 

After Wynton finishes, Freddie lets almost a chorus go by as he gets up to the mic, then starts with a flippant quote from "Three Blind Mice"—a nursery rhyme for young Wynton. And he just goes off from there, chorus by chorus, until he's pretty much made Wynton's solo minutes before a distant memory. 

This is all just a dramatization, maybe it was more cordial in reality, but the dynamic between Wynton and the reigning trumpeters of the '80s seems to be recent history that'd be worth researching for more nuance. 


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Today is the 100th birthday of the great Billie Holiday. I could listen to this early version of "I Cover the Waterfront," with Teddy Wilson's band, for days.

José James just put out a tribute to Holiday on Blue Note: Yesterday I Had the Blues: Music of Billie Holiday. I haven't yet heard the record, which has Jason Moran, John Patitucci, and Eric Harland on it, but I did catch him at LPR singing some of the music off the record as part of Winter Jazz Fest a few months ago, which had Sullivan Fortner as well as Solomon Dorsey on bass and Eric Harland on drums. I recall being completely mesmerized.