“OUT OF THE HUB: THE MUSIC OF FREDDIE HUBBARD,” Suzanne Pittsonʼs most recent recording, released on August 24, 2010, takes jazz vocals to a new level. While this recording demonstrates a perfect marriage of Hubbardʼs music and Suzanneʼs lyrics, it also showcases her amazing skill as an improvising jazz musician, with an astonishing technical facility, beautiful tone and phrasing, and unrelenting swing.
Suzanne was born into a musical family, and began piano lessons at age 8 with John Hiersoux, a student of a student of Franz Liszt. Though she played classical music, her family listened to jazz day and night. When she was very young, she performed a Schumann piece for Erroll Garner, a friend of the family, and he reciprocated by playing “Misty” on her piano at her request! Witnessing the creative freedom of this genius at an early age, no doubt instilled a profound curiosity of this magnificent art form.
Suzanne first fell in love with the music of the great trumpeter Freddie Hubbard while still in high school. She went on to complete a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts in music as a classical pianist at San Francisco State University, where she performed as soloist and accompanist, and in various chamber ensembles. While in graduate school,
she also began to study jazz. With years of piano training under her belt, she set out to explore the music of the modern horn players, transcribing and singing their solos. Hubbardʼs unique harmonic language was of particular interest, and she determined to use it as a model for her own developing vocal improvisations.
In June of 2008, Suzanne and her husband, pianist Jeff Pittson, visited Freddie at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City to seek permission to record original lyrics to some of his compositions. While he was initially flattered, Freddie was not confident that a vocalist could sing his complex compositions and he requested a demo. Upon hearing the demo, Freddie enthusiastically approved the lyrics to five of his compositions, stating that he was very pleased and looked forward to hearing the recording. Ms. Pittson has expressed that the making of this CD with Freddieʼs blessing was indeed a great honor and privilege.
“Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard” features some of the most dynamic jazz musicians on the New York City scene today. Along with Suzanne on vocals, the recording features Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Steve Wilson on alto and soprano saxophone, Jeff Pittson on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Willie Jones III on drums, with stunning arrangements by Jeff Pittson. The lyrics were a collective collaboration between Suzanne, Jeff and their son Evan, who also created the cover illustration and CD graphics. All of the original lyrics express ideas about life, music, love, joy, suffering, and fantasy, but always seek to find hope in the midst of crisis. The two vocalese lyrics on “Lament for Booker (Bright Sun) and “Crisis” (Weʼre Having a Crisis) - set to Freddieʼs trumpet solos - are narratives based on their respective titles. “Lament for Booker” expresses praise and admiration for the great trumpeter Booker Little, who died at the age of 23, and the vocalese shows appreciation for the jazz legacy that our predecessors have helped to create. “Crisis” is an urgent cry for
dialogue between people and cultures in order to resolve our world crisis.
“Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard” was recorded by Mike Marciano on August 26 & 27, 2008 at Systems Two in Brooklyn, New York and was mixed and mastered by Mike Marciano in April, 2009.
Suzanne Pittson is an exuberant, engaging and experienced performer. She has performed in the US and Europe at such major venues as Yoshiʼs, Birdland, Catalina Bar and Grill, Town Hall, Symphony Space, Aaron Davis Hall, Cornelia Street Cafe, Enzoʼs Jazz, and has performed and/or recorded with John Patitucci, Buster Williams, Dave Liebman, Shunzo Ohno, Mike Clark, Steve Wilson, Jeremy Pelt, Mark Soskin, Jack Walrath, Chip Jackson, Harvie S, and others.
Ms. Pittsonʼs first recording, "Blues and the Abstract Truth" won strong praise from critics. Then in 1997, she set original
lyrics to all four movements of John Coltraneʼs seminal work, “A Love Supreme,” which she then recorded in 1999 on her second CD, Resolution: A Remembrance of John Coltrane. She is thus far the only vocalist to have sung the entire “A Love Supreme,” as noted in Ashley Kahnʼs book, “A Love Supreme: The Story of John Coltraneʼs Signature
Ms. Pittson is Assistant Professor of Jazz Vocal Studies at the City College of New York, and lives in Dobbs Ferry, NY with her husband Jeff and son Evan.
Liner Notes to "Out of the Hub: The Music of Freddie Hubbard:"
I first heard Freddie Hubbard with the VSOP when I was a teenager - Freddie Hubbard on trumpet, Wayne Shorter on saxophone, Herbie Hancock on piano, Ron Carter on bass, and Tony Williams on drums. The Miles Davis 60‘s quintet with Freddie replacing Miles. Quite simply, I was blown away.
I grew up in a family where we listened to jazz continuously, yet I became a classical pianist and earned Bachelor's and Master’s degrees in music. My heart, however, was with singing jazz and I consciously changed my career direction knowing this was what I had to do. In the very beginning, Freddie Hubbard’s highly personal approach was of particular interest and I transcribed and sang his solos and heard him perform whenever possible. As a result, I made a commitment to learn Freddie’s harmonic language, not fully understanding how difficult a task this would be, or where it would lead me.
It’s fitting that I married Jeff Pittson, a jazz pianist who shared my feelings about Freddie. Jeff and I had a cassette tape that we fondly called ‘the Freddie tape,’ 90 minutes of continuous Freddie Hubbard solos! Wow! What a treasure trove that was! Of course, anyone who has dug into that treasure knows just how brilliant his harmonic concept remains to this day.
A few years ago, I was on a gig with bassist Jeff Chambers who played with Freddie in the ’90’s. I remember saying to him, “I’m determined to become a soloist of the caliber of Freddie Hubbard.” His response was “you and everyone else!” Whether playing a ballad or the most burning up-tempo, Freddie always had something profound to say, knew how to turn the most beautiful phrase, and to me, embodied the perfect blend of intellect and heart. I am at once moved and awed by everything he plays.
There have been so many musicians who have impacted my life, influenced my style, and helped me to formulate my vision. But I have always come back to Freddie. It seemed fitting, therefore, that I record his music in order to express my gratitude and respect. In June, 2008, Jeff and I visited Freddie at the Iridium Jazz Club in New York City to seek permission to record five of his compositions with our collaborative lyrics. After chatting with him in the crowded dressing room and taking the picture which appears in this album, he enthusiastically approved our original lyrics in September, 2008, just three months before his passing. I will always remember his kindness and trust and it is my intent to honor my debt of gratitude by always bringing my best to every performance... something that Freddie did throughout his career.
Of course, this is really only the beginning of the process for me and I will never pretend to fully understand Freddie’s language or the depth of his artistry. But I do hope that through the study and performance of his music, I can pay homage to someone who gave his life to help create this great art form, and also take a huge step forward in my own development. Thanks Freddie for letting me stand on your shoulders!
- Suzanne Pittson, 2010
“When you listen to the lovely Ms. Suzanne Pittson, you are being made privy to the artistry of someone who is setting the pace and creating new standards for those who follow and dare to call themselves ʻjazz singers.ʼ”
— Buster Williams, bassist