Brush With Greatness, Pt. II  

Posted by Tony Guerrero




[Photos: Freddie, ca. 1976 & Tony w/Freddie, 1996]

The lineage of great trumpet players from the early 1900's until now goes something like this: King Oliver>Louis Armstrong>Roy Eldridge>Dizzy Gillespie>Miles Davis>Freddie Hubbard. There are other great ones, but these were the ones who set the new standards and defined new directions for the instrument. Freddie came to prominence in the early sixties, and, truthfully, no one has really expanded on the vocabulary of jazz trumpet since him. Truly one of the all time greats, and a true legend in jazz.

In 1996, I was asked to play on a session with him. You can imagine my nerves. He would be the soloist, and I would only be in the horn section, but still, I'd be playing my trumpet in the same room as him. And being paid!

I knew at that time that Freddie had some recent problems with his lip and was unable to play up to his old standard. I didn't know the extent of it, and was saddened to hear this giant unable to blow like before.

But because of this, two amazing things happened...

1. By the time he got to the end of his solo feature, his lip was shot and he was unable to play the last few notes. Guess who got to finish for him?!? That's right, there is a CD out there featuring Freddie Hubbard but with me playing some parts for him!

2. The coolest thing was that Freddie and I talked that day about his lip problems. He mentioned that he didn't have a good warm-up regimen (crucial for trumpet players) so I showed him some of mine. He asked for my number, which I found odd, but the day ended without much more incident. Then, like two months later, I got a message on my phone…get this:

"Hey Tony…this is Freddie…I need you to come up and give me a lesson."

WHAT?!? Did Freddie Hubbard just call and ask me for a lesson?!? Now, I wasn't dumb enough to think I really had anything to offer him, or that he even meant what he was saying, but still…he said it!

I called him back and basically said I wanted a lesson from him. His interest was really in warm-up techniques and he'd forgotten what I'd showed him. So, we arranged to meet. I went to his home in Studio City and we spent several hours together playing and talking. And the occasional moment spent actually teaching. We even talked about collaborating on his biography, although I knew that was never really going to happen. A great afternoon.

For a while after that, I would get random calls from Freddie at all hours, just calling to talk. Sometimes I wondered if it mattered to him who he was talking to - he was just talking randomly - but since he occasionally said my name, he seemed to know who he'd called. Often, he'd interrupt himself mid-sentence and just blow on his trumpet. I, of course, sat and listened to him talk and blow for as long as he wanted. Shoot, this is FREDDIE!

Within a year, I'd lost contact with him (I believe he's living in New York now). But certainly, that short time he was in my life was an honor I won't soon forget.

The sad thing about this story is that I failed to save the tape of his phone message, so I can't prove Freddie actually asked me for a lesson, but I did record our actual lesson time, so I can at least prove we did that!

(Freddie's lip never recovered. He still plays, although he has never returned to his glory days.)

This entry was posted on Friday, July 4, 2008 at Friday, July 04, 2008 . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

4 comments

I met the drummer from Oingo Boingo last week at The Tubes concert. Oh, I had my picture taken with Fee, the lead singer. I love brushes with greatness and these are two of MY idols. However, neither asked me for a lesson of any kind (tho Fee asked for my phone number...)
You are gifted my friend. What a joy to know you and feel your excitement for life and for the talent of others.
PS Do you think Freddie and I could be related?

7/04/2008 10:26 AM

These stories are so cool...more, please!

7/04/2008 12:18 PM

That is an awesome story, Tony.

Speaking of brushes with greatness, I've got a story:

Once I met Tony Guerrero!

7/04/2008 7:05 PM

You should really track him down.... show up on his doorstep... that'd be cool!

7/08/2008 8:37 PM

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