At his best, Freddie Hubbard doesn’t just play jazz–he might as well be jazz. His rhythmic accents, melodic contours, and even his gargantuan tone hold a swagger that Louis Armstrong introduced to the music, and he has made his living by combining keen improvisational analysis and the bluesy, emotionally immediate approach that Charlie Parker bequeathed to modern jazz. Like the music itself, Hubbard has always opened himself to absorbing other formats: sometimes the results proved disastrous (as in some of his jazz-rock and pop-soul projects), but his early-60s appearances on then-experimental albums by Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane helped Hubbard navigate the jazz mainstream with greater freedom. And, for all his brassy sound and cocksure phrasing, he remains one of the greatest balladeers the trumpet has ever known. Thanks to a style as distinct as a fingerprint, and to the breadth of musical resources he commands, Hubbard long ago attained his place in a lineage that stretches back directly to Dizzy Gillespie; what’s more, in recent years the 55-year-old Hubbard has become acutely aware of his niche, and correspondingly more responsible for the music he plays and image he cuts. The eternal kid turns into Elder Statesman–what a concept. Hubbard headlines Jazz Unites Jazzfest ’93, which runs Saturday and Sunday from noon to 8. His quintet–featuring the spectacular Louis Hayes on drums, as well as two talented but untouted phenoms in tenor saxist Don Braden and pianist John Beasley–plays Saturday, approximately 7 PM, South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr.; 667-2707.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Carol Friedman.