Jazz fans fume as lips stop play

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The Independent Online
IT WAS an evening the organisers of tiny Colchester Jazz Club thought they would never forget - the night Freddie Hubbard, the greatest jazz trumpeter after Miles Davis, played their venue.

And forget it they won't. When he got on stage more than an hour late, he performed, as the club's chairman Steve Wright put it, as if he was playing a bunch of bananas. The trumpeter couldn't play his trumpet.

Mr Hubbard's next stop was supposed to be Southampton. But he didn't even leave his hotel. Then, at the New Morning Club in Paris, it was another no-show. Yesterday he was due at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival. He cancelled at the last minute.

Last night Mr Hubbard had fled home to Los Angeles. The man, it seems, has fallen victim to the blight that has haunted all jazz trumpeters from the legendary Miles to Chet Baker and Louis Armstrong - a worn-out lip.

Freddie Hubbard's lip had become infected and had been operated on, said his UK agent, Dennis Armstead. "I think he went back to work too soon. The lip is too soft and he can't hold a note. He decided to go back home because he is so embarrassed."

Mark Hardy, who helped organise the tour, said: "We'll have to wait and see whether he will ever play again. It's not just his lips. This experience was so bad his emotional and psychological make-up has been affected."

"It is tragic to see something like this happen to so great a player," agreed Steve Wright of the Colchester Jazz Club. "But it was a nightmare for us as well. Instead of the most prestigious concert we've ever held, we ended up with a furious audience." Fans demanded their money back, and the club - which paid pounds 1,300 for Hubbard and the backing band, fears it may have to close.

For the organisers of the Cheltenham Jazz Festival, things were not looking so bad. While they were disappointed that Mr Hubbard had pulled out, there was good news as well. Octogenarian Stephane Grappelli, who has been seriously ill, was so determined to play that last night he agreed to perform in his wheelchair after an hydraulic lift raised him onto the stage.

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