Wednesday, December 31, 2008

RIP Freddie Hubbard

Freddie Hubbard, energetic jazz trumpeter, dies at 70
By Peter Keepnews
Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Freddie Hubbard, a jazz trumpeter who dazzled audiences and critics alike with his virtuosity, his melodicism and his infectious energy, died Monday in Sherman Oaks, California. He was 70.

The cause was complications of a heart attack he had Nov. 26, said his spokesman, Don Lucoff of DL Media.

Over a career that began in the late 1950s, Hubbard earned both critical praise and commercial success - although rarely for the same projects.

He attracted attention in the 1960s for his bravura work as a member of the Jazz Messengers, the valuable training ground for young musicians led by the veteran drummer Art Blakey, and on albums by Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter and many others. He also recorded several well-regarded albums as a leader. And although he was not an avant-gardist by temperament, he participated in three of the seminal recordings of the 1960s jazz avant-garde: Ornette Coleman's "Free Jazz" (1960), Eric Dolphy's "Out to Lunch" (1964) and John Coltrane's "Ascension" (1965).

In the 1970s Hubbard, like many other jazz musicians of his generation, began courting a larger audience, with albums that featured electric instruments, rock and funk rhythms, string arrangements and repertory sprinkled with pop and R&B songs like Paul McCartney's "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey" and the Stylistics' "Betcha by Golly, Wow." His audience did indeed grow, but his standing in the jazz world diminished.

By the start of the next decade he had largely abandoned his more commercial approach and returned to his jazz roots. But his career came to a virtual halt in 1992 when he damaged his lip, and although he resumed performing and recording after an extended hiatus, he was never again as powerful a player as he had been in his prime.

Frederick Dewayne Hubbard was born on April 7, 1938, in Indianapolis. His first instrument was the alto-brass mellophone, and in high school he studied French horn and tuba as well as trumpet.

After taking lessons with Max Woodbury, the first trumpeter of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, at the Arthur Jordan Conservatory of Music, he performed locally with, among others, the guitarist Wes Montgomery and his brothers.

Hubbard moved to New York in 1958 and almost immediately began working with groups led by the saxophonist Sonny Rollins, the drummer Philly Joe Jones and others. His profile rose in 1960 when he joined the roster of Blue Note, a leading jazz label; it rose further the next year when he was hired by Blakey, widely regarded as the music's premier talent scout.

Adding his own spin to a style informed by Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Clifford Brown, Hubbard played trumpet with an unusual mix of melodic inventiveness and technical razzle-dazzle. The critics took notice. Leonard Feather called him "one of the most skilled, original and forceful trumpeters of the '60s."

After leaving Blakey's band in 1964, Hubbard worked for a while with another drummer-bandleader, Max Roach, before forming his own group in 1966. Four years later he began recording for CTI, a record company that would soon become known for its aggressive efforts to market jazz musicians beyond the confines of the jazz audience.

Hubbard won a Grammy Award for the album "First Light" in 1972 and was named a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master in 2006.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Briggie Hubbard, and his son, Duane.

Hubbard was once known as the brashest of jazzmen, but his personality as well as his music mellowed in the wake of his lip problems. In a 1995 interview with Fred Shuster of Down Beat, Hubbard offered some sober advice to younger musicians: "Don't make the mistake I made of not taking care of myself. Please, keep your chops cool and don't overblow."

Monday, December 29, 2008

In Memoriam 2008

In chronological order of their deaths, these are people with whom I was at least vaguely familiar who passed away this year:

Lee Dreyfus, former governor of Wisconsin.

Gerry Staley, former MLB pitcher.

Jimmy Stewart, former British racecar driver.

Phillip Agee, author and former CIA agent.

Jim Dooley, former Chicago Bears coach.

Johnny Grant, former honorary mayor of Hollywood.

Rod Allen, former lead singer of the Fortunes (”Here Comes that Rainy Day Feeling Again”).

Sir Edmund Hillary, first mountaineer to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

Johnny Podres, former MLB pitcher.

Bobby Fischer, chess grandmaster.

Ernie Holmes, former NFL player.

John Stroger, Chicago politician.

Lois Nettleton, movie and TV actress.

Lou Palmer, radio announcer.

Georgia Frontiere, owner of St. Louis Rams football team.

John Stewart, member of the Kingston Trio.

Eugene Sawyer, former mayor of Chicago.

Suzanne Pleshette, movie and TV actress.

Heath Ledger, movie actor.

Margaret Truman Daniel, author and daughter of Harry S Truman.

Ed Vargo, former MLB umpire.

Earl Butz, former secretary of agriculture.

Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, former guru to the Beatles.

Roy Scheider, movie actor.

Freddie Bell, R&B singer.

Tom Lantos, member of Congress and Holocaust survivor.

Robin Moore, author (”The Green Berets”).

Evan Mecham, former governor of Arizona.

Buddy Miles, rock drummer.

William F. Buckley Jr., author, political commentator, founder of the National Review magazine.

Mike Smith, lead singer of the Dave Clark Five.

Jerry Groom, former NFL player.

Buddy Dial, former football star.

Bob Purkey, former MLB player.

Ivan Dixon, movie and TV actor (”Hogan’s Heroes”).

Sir Arthur Clarke, author (”2001: A Space Odyssey”).

Richard Widmark, actor.

Paul Scofield, actor.

Neil Aspinall, former road manager for the Beatles.

Wally Phillips, Chicago radio personality.

Charlton Heston, movie actor.

Bob Pellegrini, former NFL player.

Joy Page, movie actress (”Casablanca”).

Al Wilson, soul singer (”Show and Tell”).

Paul Davis, pop singer (”65 Love Affair”).

Eddy Arnold, country music singer.

Arthur Burks, mathemetician and computer pioneer.

Utah Phillips, folk singer.

Jimmy McGriff, jazz and blues organist.

Dick Martin, comedian (”Laugh-In”).

Sydney Pollack, movie actor and director.

Earle Hagen, TV theme composer (”The Andy Griffith Show”).

Harvey Korman, actor and comedian.

Yves St. Laurent, fashion designer.

Paul Sills, co-founder of the Second City improv troupe.

Mel Ferrer, actor.

Bo Diddley (pictured above), rock pioneer.

Tim Russert, TV journalist.

Cyd Charisse, actress and dancer.

Dody Goodman, actress and comedian.

George Carlin, comedian.

Larry Harmon, actor (Bozo the Clown).

Evelyn Keyes, actress (”Gone With the Wind”).

Charles Joffe, producer of most of Woody Allen’s movies.

Michael DeBakey, pioneer heart surgeon.

Bobby Murcer, former MLB player.

Tony Snow, journalist and White House press secretary.

Les Crane, TV personality.

Jo Stafford, singer (”Jambalaya”).

Estelle Getty, TV actress (”Golden Girls”).

Anne Armstrong, Republican politician.

Skip Caray, baseball broadcaster.

Orville Moody, golfer.

Bernie Mac, comedian and actor.

Isaac Hayes, soul musician.

Gene Upshaw, NFL player and union executive.

Phil Hill, racecar driver.

Jerry Reed, country singer and actor.

Ike Pappas, TV journalist.

Richard Wright, keyboardist and songwriter for Pink Floyd.

Norman Whitfield, Motown songwriter (”I Heard It Through the Grapevine”).

Anna Langford, Chicago politician.

Connie Haynes, singer.

Dick Lynch, former NLF player.

Mickey Vernon, former MLB player.

Paul Newman, actor.

Nick Reynolds, former member of the Kingston Trio.

Lloyd Thaxton, TV personality.

Gil Stratton, sportscaster and actor (”Stalag 17″).

Tom Tresh, former MLB player.

Edie Adams, singer and actress.

Levi Stubbs, lead singer of the Four Tops.

Ben Weider, bodybuilding enthusiast.

Richard Blackwell, fashion critic.

Tony Hillerman, mystery writer.

Delmar Watson, former child actor (”Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”).

Studs Terkel, author and radio personality.

Yma Sumac, singer.

Michael Crichton, author (”Jurassic Park”).

Heather Pick, TV journalist.

Jody Reynolds, singer and guitarist (”Endless Sleep”).

Preacher Roe, former MLB pitcher.

Miriam Makeba, singer.

Herb Score, former MLB pitcher.

Odetta, folk singer.

Nina Foch, actress.

Beverley Garland, actress.

Sunny von Bulow, heiress.

Dennis Yost, lead singer of the Classics IV.

Robert Prosky, actor.

Betty Page, pin-up model.

Van Johnson, actor.

Sammy Baugh, former NFL player.

Paul Weyrich, conservative political activist.

Conor Cruise O’Brien, political activist and author.

W. Mark Felt, “Deep Throat” of Watergate fame.

Dock Ellis, former MLB pitcher.

Harold Pinter, playwright.

Eartha Kitt, singer and actress.

Delaney Bramlett, singer and songwriter.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Presidential Controversies (From Swimming Nude to Getting Drunk)

By Gregory McNamee on History

When Barack Obama takes office on January 20, 2009, as the forty-fourth president of the United States, he will bear the weight of the world on his shoulders.

Apart from having the normal jitters, the new president, remembering recent events, will doubtless be uncomfortably aware that from then on his every move will be under the close eye of lawmakers, lobbyists, journalists, and citizens. One error, one gaffe, one small lapse of judgment, the new president might reasonably think, and I’m toast: just think of Bill Clinton. Just look at the last eight misbegotten years.George Washington

Small wonder that Franklin Pierce, who served as president from 1853 to 1857, remarked that all he wanted to do on leaving office was to get drunk. And small wonder that James Madison, our fourth president, was moved to reply to an admirer, “I would much rather be in bed.”

The new president might be cheered, though, to know that our presidents have from the very start been the subjects, and sometimes the authors, of controversy and scandal.

Our presidents, to put it another way, have always been in hot water—or, in the case of John Quincy Adams, in cold water. Adams was fond of swimming nude in the Potomac River. Respectable Washingtonians disapproved, but Adams kept bathing au naturel even after someone once stole his clothes as he swam, and even after a reporter cornered him in the river and refused to let him dress until Adams had given her an exclusive interview.

The first to discover how unpopular a president can be was George Washington, who, we tend to forget, was not universally well liked in his time. Ardent republicans in the first government of the United States accused Washington of wanting to establish himself as a new, homegrown king, especially after Washington took stern measures to force his fellow citizens to pay their taxes. Washington did have an imperious and sometimes impatient way, as he showed when he went to the Senate on August 22, 1789, to press for a new treaty with the Creek Indians. After Washington had made his argument for making this new treaty, a senator asked for clarification on one or two points. When Washington did not reply satisfactorily, the senator moved that the treaty be sent for further study to a committee. “This defeats every purpose of my coming here!” Washington cried. He swore that he would never again enter the Senate, and his successors have followed suit.

Washington touched off a minor scandal when he appointed a New York tavern keeper named Sam Fraunces to the new post of steward, responsible for keeping the president well fed and for arranging state dinners for visiting dignitaries. Fraunces took his duties seriously, saying, “While General Washington is president of the United States, and I have the honor to serve him as steward, his establishment shall be supplied with the very best of everything that the country can afford.” Fiscal conservatives trying to balance the new country’s books after an expensive revolutionary war were outraged by Fraunces’s free-spending ways, but Washington kept him on until, the story has it, he discovered that his steward had paid the outrageous sum of three dollars for a single fish. He fired Fraunces, and for the rest of his term budget-minded critics of the government had nothing to complain about.

Andrew Jackson of Tennessee had less refined tastes than George Washington’s. During his time in office (1829–1837) he was often criticized for hosting drunken parties in which his friends from the wild frontier showed their enthusiasm by breaking White House china and the occasional window. But Jackson came under more criticism still when he refused to recharter the Bank of the United States, a private corporation in which the federal government held a substantial block of stock. Westerners and populists detested the bank, and so did Jackson, who denounced it as an instrument of monopoly and special privilege, saying, “Our rich men have not been content with equal protection and equal benefits, but have besought us to make them richer by act of Congress.” That may have been so, Jackson’s critics allowed, but even so the bank was well managed and kept the economy on course. When the bank dissolved after Jackson ordered that the federal government cease making deposits, panic ensued. Jackson eventually had to charter a new national bank under rules that, albeit with many changes, still apply today. Jackson wasn’t happy about the outcome. He threatened to hang anyone who opposed him.

Until recently, Andrew Johnson (1865–1869) was the only American president to have been impeached. Historians are now inclined to the view that Johnson did no wrong, but the politicians of his time hated the Tennessean, who served on the Union side during the Civil War. When the war ended, Johnson urged that the defeated Confederate states be readmitted to the Union without reparations. Many unforgiving congressmen felt otherwise, and they impeached Johnson for “high crimes and misdemeanors” when he fired his secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, for siding with so-called radical Reconstructionists who insisted on severely punishing the southern states. Those congressmen also insisted that only they could dismiss members of the cabinet, and they passed the Tenure of Office Act—which was later ruled unconstitutional—to make sure that this would be so. Johnson escaped conviction by just one vote, but to this day he is remembered, like Richard Nixon, largely for having touched off a scandal in government.

Calvin Coolidge, a taciturn New Englander, reasoned that by keeping his mouth closed he’d keep out of trouble. The technique usually worked, but Coolidge had a habit that Ronald Reagan shared, and that brought both presidents much criticism. Coolidge, it seems, loved his afternoon nap—which often lasted for three or four hours, on top of eight or nine hours of normal nighttime sleep. Coolidge had a sense of humor about his penchant for sawing logs, even if his political opponents did not; once, when an aide awakened him from a sound midday sleep, Coolidge asked, “Is the country still here?” Coolidge also argued that the country benefited from his nap habit—after all, he said, he couldn’t initiate any potentially costly federal actions while he was asleep.

But there is no time to sleep now. Godspeed, Mr. President. Controversy awaits—but also, it is to be hoped, so do glory and greatness.