It was standing room only and they were three deep at the bar to hear trumpeter Freddie Hubbard usher in the 20th anniversary at Donte's on Thursday evening.
Perhaps ironically, it was about 20 years ago that Hubbard, a player heavily influenced by the '50s leading trumpet man, Clifford Brown, was the jazz trumpet star (having, to some extent, replaced Miles Davis). In the '70s he was supplanted by Woody Shaw; in the '80s it's been Wynton Marsalis. But the current Hubbard, a durable and enduring jazz figure, backed by a quintet of fine young players, is as vibrant and vital a player as he was when he broke new jazz ground with Art Blakey two decades ago.
Hubbard opened his four-tune set Thursday with a Blakey chestnut, "Thermo." With the three-horn front line of trumpet, tenor sax and trombone, the sextet recalled both the patented hard-bop spirit of the Jazz Messengers and the more mellow flavor offered by the same generation's Art Farmer, Benny Golson and Curtis Fuller. Both ways--hard and fast, smooth and slack--the formula worked.
Saxophonist Bob Sheppard added a further dimension. With his outside approach and hard-edged style, he recalled the singing spirit of John Coltrane when Hubbard was in that fold. Hardly a copyest though, Sheppard showed himself to be an extraordinary talent who could have been better served than by the subsequent "Superblue," a funky rock piece by Benard Ighner. He then served up a funky plate of inconsequential solo outings.