Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Hubert Laws - 1972 - Wild Flower

Hubert Laws
Wild Flower

01. Wild Flower 3:10
02. Pensativa 4:00
03. Equinox 6:20
04. Ashanti 5:26
05. Motherless Child 5:31
06. Yoruba 6:04

Bass – Ron Carter
Flute – Hubert Laws
Congas – Mongo Santamaria
Drums – Bernard Purdie, Mongo Santamaria
Percussion – Airto, Joe Chambers, Warren Smith
Piano – Chick Corea
Vibraphone – Gary Burton

Hubert Laws plays flawlessly and sensitively as usual, but the record really belongs to John Murtaugh. Murtaugh came up as a Los Angeles tenorist in the 1950's but made his reputation as a writer. The program was thoughtfully considered. Each composition has its own identity and feeling. Taken together there is variety and balance. Five tunes feature Murtaugh's magnificent string writing.

The string sound is dry and tart, not lush and not violin-dominated. The cello parts are notable. Bassists Richard Davis and Ron Carter play together magically in the ensemble, serving as a bridge between the strings and the rhythm section. On "Ashante" they carry on a dialogue over pedal-point strings. The modal "Yoruba" is the only piece without strings—four percussionists are substituted. The session's most rhythmically evolved composition, the tune goes though several tempos and rhythms and includes a Laws-Corea duet.

For those who sweat the little stuff the studio players were the best of their time as a glance at their names reveals. This music would not be nearly as successful without their inspired ensemble work.

Hubert Laws - 1971 - The Rite Of Spring

Hubert Laws 
The Rite Of Spring

01. Pavane
02. The Rite Of Spring
03. Syrinx
04. Brandenburg Concerto No.3 (First Movement)
05. Brandenburg Concerto No.3 (Second Movement)

Guitar – Stuart Scharf
Bass – Ron Carter
Bassoon – Wally Kane
Drums – Jack DeJohnette
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Gene Bertoncini
Percussion – Airto Moreira
Piano, Electric Piano, Harpsichord [Electric] – Bob James
Producer – Creed Taylor
Vibraphone, Percussion – David Friedman

Long before Wynton decided he could play classical chops as well as the real long-haired interpreters, even though he was a jazz musician, Hubert Laws and his partners at CTI gave it a run with a jazz twist, and for the most part with a far more adventurous repertoire. Unfortunately, the results were just about as thrilling as Wynton's, with a few notable exceptions. For whatever reason, flutist Hubert Laws, known for his soul-jazz deftness, decided to take on handful of classical texts with the help of Bob James on piano, harpsichord, and electric piano; bassist Ron Carter, who doubles on cello; and drummer Jack DeJohnette, along with percussionists Airto and David Friedman, a pair of classical guitarists, and a trio of bassoonists. The program ranges from Debussy's lovely "Syrinx" and Faure's "Pavane," to Stravinsky on the title cut and two movements of the third Brandberg Concerto by Bach. The problem with so much variation and ambition is that it's bound to get caught up somewhere. That catching place is in the articulation of the actual transcriptions. They are stiff, rigid, oddly intoned, and lackluster -- except in Debussy's "Syrinx," which is gorgeous throughout with its strange meter and lilting cadence. On the rest, the only place the tunes work is in the sections where the players engage in jazz improvisation upon the score, which is a swirling, engaging free-for-all of color, texture, and nuance. But since this happens so irregularly, the pieces just seem to grate on the listener. This is a brave but ultimately failed experiment.

Hubert Laws - 1970 - Afro Classic

Hubert Laws 
Afro Classic

01. Fire And Rain 7:55
02. Allegro From Concerto #3 In D 3:40
03. Theme From Love Story 7:25
04. Passacaglia In C Minor 15:10
05. Flute Sonata In F 3:15

Bass – Ron Carter
Bassoon – Fred Alston, Jr.
Drums – Fred Waits
Electric Piano – Bob James
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Gene Bertoncini
Percussion – Airto, Richie "Pablo" Landrum
Vibraphone – David Friedman

Recorded December 1970 at Van Gelder Studios

Another classic from the CTI (Creed Taylor Incorporated) catalogue, revived on state of the art vinyl by Speakers Corner. These are beautiful, lucid recordings engineered by the great Rudy Van Gelder in December 1970, featuring flautist Hubert Laws as leader. Laws had begun recording his own albums at Atlantic (also the home of Herbie Mann, the other leading exponent of jazz flute) before being lured away by Creed Taylor. Laws’s jazz credentials are flawless, but he also had a considerable presence in the world of classical music — having studied at Juilliard before playing with the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera orchestras. The ‘Classic’ in the title alludes to Laws’s interest in classical music, and in this pursuit he’s aided signifcantly by Don Sebesky, one of CTI’s cornerstone arrangers. Sebesky was a graduate of the Tommy Dorsey and Stan Kenton big bands and had already scored big (in every sense) for Creed Taylor with his work on some bestselling Wes Montgomery albums. 

But before the classical explorations we’re treat to an astonishing version of James Taylor’s Fire and Rain. The hesitant lyricism of Laws’s flute sings the theme against a menacing drone of the bass (Ron Carter) and some ominous fragments of percussion (Airto and Richie ‘Pablo’ Landrum) which suggest the darker aspects of the song, before the childlike purity of electric piano by Bob James, echoed by Laws’s flute, profoundly changes the mood. A staccato stutter of military drums (Fred Waits) and fluttering flute effect another transformation. A sustained linear note from Laws fractures into coloured shards and precedes the most striking development in the piece. The song turns into an hallucinogenic tapestry of electronica, combining Gene Bertoncini’s guitar, David Friedman’s fuzz pedal vibes and Bob James’s keyboards and ends with an amazing, sustained electronic shimmer. An acid era masterpiece. 

Bach’s Passacaglia In C Minor opens with the powerful, dark murmurings of Ron Carter’s bass, which provides soft shadowed slopes for the bright skating of Bob James’ electric piano. Gene Bertoncini is also a master of the acoustic guitar, as he demonstrates here, and he’s accompanied by Carter doubling on electric cello. Bertoncini’s strumming, Laws’s downward-spiralling flute and Bob James’s descending scales on the electric piano intertwine virtuosically. Meanwhile Airto and Landrum’s catchy ethnic percussion provide some of the ‘Afro’ of the album’s title. James plays his keyboards with a forceful percussive drive which pushes them to the edge of distortion and Fred Waits works alchemy with his drum kit. Bertoncini swaps to electric guitar, Carter saws sour-sweet country licks on the electric cello. Then frayed, worrying phrases played by Laws on electric flute take the piece in a fascinating new direction. Bertoncini returns for a lonely coda on acoustic guitar, ghosted by Carter’s bass before the ensemble returns, joined by Friedman’s vibes. 

Attempts at ‘jazz meets classical music’ can go horribly wrong, but the poised beauty and understated elegance of the Passacaglia suggests that it’s a viable form after all. This entire album is also noteworthy for highlighting how effective and utterly musical even the oddest electric instruments can be, when used by the right players working with the right arranger. This is a 1970s classic reborn on vinyl and sounding superb.

Hubert Laws - 1969 - Crying Song

Hubert Laws 
Crying Song

01. La Jean 2:30
02. Love Is Blue / Sing A Rainbow 3:20
03. Crying Song 4:50
04. Listen To The Band 3:20
05. I've Gotta Get A Message To You 3:05
06. Feelin' Alright? 2:30
07. Cymbaline 3:55
08. How Long Will It Be? 5:50
09. Let It Be 3:30

Bass – Mike Leech (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4), Ron Carter (tracks: A3, B2, B3)
Cello – Charles McCracken (tracks: A1, A2), George Ricci (tracks: A1, A2)
Drums – Bill Cobham (tracks: A3), Gene Chrisman (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4), Grady Tate (tracks: B2, B3)
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – George Benson (tracks: A3, B2, B3), Reggie Young (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Organ – Bobby Emmons (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Organ, Piano – Bob James (tracks: A3, B2, B3)
Piano – Bobby Wood (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Saxophone – Art Clarke (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4), Seldon Powell (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Trombone – Garnett Brown (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4), Tony Studd (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Ernie Royal (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4), Marvin Stamm (tracks: A1, A2, A4, A5, B1, B4)
Violin – Avram Weiss (tracks: A1, A2), Gene Orloff (tracks: A1, A2), George Ockner (tracks: A1, A2), Lewis Eley (tracks: A1, A2), Matthew Raimondi (tracks: A1, A2), Max Pollikoff (tracks: A1, A2), Paul Gershman (tracks: A1, A2), Raoul Poliakin (tracks: A1, A2), Sylvan Shulman (tracks: A1, A2)

Recorded July 23 (A5, A4), 24 (A2, B1, A1, B4), 1969, American Sounds Studio, Memphis
Recorded September 23 (A3), 24 (B3, B2), 1969, Van Gelder Studios

Hubert Laws occupies rather an ambivalent position in critical estimation. He was very unusual in concentrating on the flute but signing for Creed Taylor and his band of Memphis Soul specialists should have orientated him squarely in the vanguard of late 1960s Jazz. If the precedent was another elite flautist, Herbie Mann – who’d already had a hit single for Atlantic – then the decision was sound. But if these three LPs, made between 1969 and 1971, didn’t seem somewhat incongruous stylistically at the time – and they did, to many people – they certainly do today.

That’s not to denigrate Laws, whose tone is utterly ravishing throughout, but the attempt in the first album, Crying Song, to construct a pop album with fringe Memphis and Country Soul stylings was never going to satisfy the purists. Others, such as Keith Jarrett and Gary Burton, were naturally situated along Country Roads and their albums of the late 60s showed strong affinities for the genre within a broader musical context. But Laws’ first album, despite the presence of stellar sidemen such as Ron Carter, Billy Cobham, and on several tracks George Benson – along with a raft of other superb players – fails to cohere. Country Soul, the Monkees, mild Psychedelia, the Bee Gees and Lennon/McCartney with sitar impersonations; well, it’s a big ask for much of this to stand the sterner tests of time.

Hubert Laws - 1969 - Law's Cause

Hubert Laws 
Law's Cause

01. No More 2:30
02. If You Knew 4:31
03. A Day With You 3:34
04. Please Let Go 2:30
05. Shades Of Light 6:44
06. Trio For Flute, Bassoon, And Piano 5:08
07. Windows 8:45

Bass – Ron Carter
Bass [Fender] – Chuck Rainey
Bassoon – Karl Porter
Drums – Grady Tate
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Kenny Burrell
Harpsichord – Roland Hanna
Piano – Chick Corea
Sitar – Sam Brown
Trumpet – Jimmy Owens
Vocals – Melba Moore

Hubert Laws - 1966 - Flute By-Laws

Hubert Laws 
Flute By-Laws

01. Bloodshot 4:40
02. Miedo 5:10
03. Mean Lene 5:15
04. No You'd Better Not 3:32
05. Let Her Go 3:25
06. Strange Girl 8:20
07. Baila Cinderella 4:26

Bass – Chris White (tracks: A1, A3, A4), Israel "Cachao" Lopez (tracks: B1, B3), Richard Davis (tracks: A2, B2)
Congas – Raymond Orchart (tracks: B1, B3), Victor Pantoja (tracks: A1, A3, A4)
Drums – Bobby Thomas (tracks: A2, B1 to B3), Ray Lucas (tracks: A1, A3, A4)
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Sam Brow (tracks: B2)
Percussion – Bill Fitch (tracks: B1, B3)
Piano – Chick Corea (tracks: A2, A3, B1 to B3), Rodgers Grant (tracks: A1, A4)
Tenor Saxophone, Bass Trombone – Benny Powell (tracks: A1, A3, A4)
Timbales – Carmelo Garcia (tracks: A1, A3 to B1, B3)
Trombone – Garnett Brown, Tommy McIntosh (tracks: A2, B1 to B3)
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Jimmy Owens, Marty Banks

Internationally renowned flutist Hubert Laws is one of the few classical artists who has also mastered jazz, pop, and rhythm-and-blues genres; moving effortlessly from one repertory to another. He has appeared as a soloist with the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, with the orchestras of Los Angeles, Dallas, Chicago, Cleveland, Amsterdam, Japan, Detroit and with the Stanford String Quartet. He has given annual performances at Carnegie Hall, and has performed sold out performances in the Hollywood Bowl with fellow flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal and was a member of the New York Philharmonic and Metropolitan Opera Orchestras. In addition, he has appeared at the Montreux, Playboy, and Kool Jazz festivals; he performed with the Modern Jazz Quartet at the Hollywood Bowl in 1982 and with the Detroit Symphony in 1994. His recordings have won three Grammy nominations.

Mr. Laws has been involved in unique projects such as collaborations with Quincy Jones, Bob James, and Claude Bolling for Neil Simon’s comedy California Suite, a collaboration with Earl Klugh and Pat Williams on the music for How to Beat the High Cost of Living: and film scores for The Wiz, Color Purple, A Hero Ain’t Nothing but a Sandwich, and Spot Marks the X.

There are 23 albums in Mr. Laws’ discography for such record companies as: Atlantic, CBS, CTI, including: “My Time Will Come,” and “Storm Then The Calm” for the Music Masters record label.

Session work also remains a staple of Hubert Laws’ schedule, and includes collaborations and recordings with such artists as Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Freddie Hubbard, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, Sergio Mendes, Bob James, Carly Simon, Clark Terry, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

In addition, Mr. Laws maintains his own publishing companies, Hulaws Music and Golden Flute Music, and he founded Spirit Productions in 1976 to produce his own albums and those of promising new artists. He was selected the THE #1 FLUTIST FOR 24 YEARS: Down Beat readers’ polls ten years in a row and was the critic’s choice seven consecutive years. Currently awarded Downbeat #1 flutist 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014

Born in Houston, Mr. Laws’ musical education came from various sources. He grew up directly across from a honky-tonk called Miss Mary’s Place, his grandfather played the harmonica, and his mother played gospel music on the piano. His classical training got under way in high school. He later enrolled in the music department at Texas Southern University. During this period, he arranged to study privately with Clement Barone who Mr. Laws considers had a profound effect on his development. From there he traveled to Los Angeles with the Jazz Crusaders where he won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of music in New York City. Mr. Laws completed his studies and obtained his degree at the Juilliard School of music in New York City under tutelage of the renowned flutist Julius Baker.

Hubert’s musical education has always been an amalgamation. For starters, his boyhood home was directly across the street from an honest-to-goodness honky-tonk, Miss Mary’s Place, which still sits on the same spot in Houston’s Studewood section. His grandfather played the harmonica and often entertained as a one-man band. His mother, Miola, played gospel music on piano.

The second of eight children in a musical family, Hubert grew up playing rhythm and blues and gospel at dances in the neighborhood. Brother Ronnie and sisters, Eloise and Debra, have all made their mark in the music industry, while sister Blanche has devoted her talent to gospel singing and brother Johnnie has contributed his voice on Hubert’s recordings. It’s fitting that Hubert’s fourth album for Columbia was entitled Family, featuring almost the entire Laws clan.

Starting out on Piano then Mellophone and alto sax, Hubert picked up the flute in high school while volunteering to fill-in on a flute solo performance with his high school orchestra. Music teacher, Clement Barone, is credited with teaching Hubert the fundamentals. During his early teens, Hubert was exposed to jazz by high school band director Sammy Harris at Phillis Wheatley High School. He enjoyed the freedom of improvisation and the creativity allowed by jazz and began playing regularly with a Houston group known variously as the Swingsters, the Modern Jazz Sextet, Night Hawks, the Jazz Crusaders, and more recently, the Crusaders.

After high school, Hubert enrolled in the Music Department at Texas Southern University. After two years there he left with the Crusaders for Los Angeles. This soon became a point of departure to the Juilliard School of Music in New York. Winning a scholarship that would cover the cost of tuition in 1960, Hubert left for New York in a 1950 Plymouth Sedan with $600.00 in his pocket. Fondly remembering the moment he realized his savings would not cover the necessities of life in New York, Hubert recalled, “It was the fall of 1960. I was down to my last fifty bucks and wondering what to do when the phone rang and it was a call offering me my first job at Sugar Ray’s Lounge in Harlem. Times were tough then, but, I haven’t looked back since.”

Studying all day every day in class or with master flautist Julius Baker, evenings were devoted to gigging for support. Soon Hubert was playing with the likes of Mongo Santamaria, Lloyd Price Big Band, John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet, the Orchestra USA, and the Berkshire Festival Orchestra at Tanglewood — summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Recording session work became a staple of Hubert’s schedule and included Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Aretha Franklin, Lena Horne, James Moody, Sergio Mendes, Bob James, Carly Simon, George Benson, Clark Terry, and J.J. Johnson. During those tough times, the ability to play R&B and jazz enabled him not only to survive, but to thrive. Hubert believes musicians would do well to learn how to play in a variety of musical idioms.

Hubert Laws - 1965 - Laws Of Jazz

Hubert Laws 
Laws Of Jazz

01. Miss Thing 3:47
02. All Soul 3:39
03. Black Eyed Peas And Rice 3:25
04. Bessie's Blues 6:12
05. And Don't You Forget It 2:59
06. Bimbe Blue 7:51
07. Capers 5:36

Bass – Richard Davis
Drums – Bobby Thomas (tracks: A1, A3, B2), Jimmy Cobb (tracks: A2, A4, B1, B3)
Flute – Hubert Laws
Piano – Armando Corea

As a lead instrument, two names immediately jump out when it comes to the jazz flute: Herbie Mann and Hubert Laws. Rightfully or otherwise, these two cats can carry some negative baggage with modern jazz fans due to the fame they found with more commercial releases in the 1970s. I'll admit I only associated Laws with his adventurous early CTI albums, a few of which I really enjoy, and it wasn't until I came across The Laws Of Jazz that I realized he had started his career off with Atlantic Records putting out some quality straight-ahead jazz records.

The Laws Of Jazz is an enjoyable hard bop record, with Laws staying very much in the cut with his compostions and solos (there is none of the fire of Eric Dolphy or Rahsaan Roland Kirk to be found here). The most enjoyable and memorable of the tracks are the two bluesiest numbers, "Bessie's Blues" and "Bimbe Blues," where Laws gets to really stretch out with some soulful work on the flute. The group on hand has some familiar names in Richard Davis, Jimmy Cobb and Chick Corea (billed here early in his career as Armando Corea), who all add some nice solos and flourishes to the proceedings. Laws does play the piccolo on two of the tracks, an instrument that just doesn't work for me in this setting, it's high-pitched sound is too grating for my ears.

Laws would, as mentioned, find enormous commercial (and even some critical) success in the early seventies with his unique blending of jazz and classical music on the CTI label. A few of these records, particularly Morning Star, Afro Classic and In The Beginning are really quite groundbreaking in combining jazz, classical and pop artistry into one cohesive presentation. However, the easy going nature and appearance of pop tunes like James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" or the theme from the movie "The Love Story" turned off a lot of "serious" jazz fans, both then and now. I'm not going to try and convince you of the merits of these sessions, you either appreciate them for what they are or you don't. In any case, any fan of hard bop and modern jazz will enjoy The Laws Of Jazz, both as a historical document (Laws' debut and a very young Corea) and for the enjoyable music it offers.