I wrote the other day that I'm reviewing some DVDs for DownBeat's holiday gift guide, and tonight I had the good fortune to watch Freddie Hubbard in his 1973 prime. With Hubbard's unfortunate decline over the following two decades, the death of Lee Morgan and the aging of Dizzy Gillespie, the aggressive bop-derived (well, Gillespie was bop, but he was playing variations by the '70s) style of trumpet gave way to a softer, more nuanced approach. What a jolt, then, to be reminded of what Hubbard could sound like. Stunning, really.
Watching Hubbard made me wistful, like watching Willie Mays, Bobby Hull or Jim Brown in their prime and wishing you could freeze them as you wish to remember them—young, strong and beautiful. The sports analogies are apt, because Hubbard was such a physical player, and the ravages of the years—and his admitted excesses—were akin to the toll sports took on the knees of Mays, Bobby Orr and Joe Namath.
We were all young once, but only the blessed few got to burn like Freddie.