Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Hubert Laws & Earl Klugh - 1980 - How To Beat The High Cost Of Living

Hubert Laws & Earl Klugh 
How To Beat The High Cost Of Living
(Music From The Original Soundtrack)

01. Down River 2:20
02. Night Moves 5:25
03. Piccolo Boogie 4:30
04. Dream Something 3:37
05. It's So Easy Loving You 4:06
06. The Edge 2:16
07. The Caper 2:29
08. Ready To Run 1:37
09. The Scuffle 2:14
10. Song For A Pretty Girl 3:09

Bass – Neil Stubenhaus
Drums – Steve Schaeffer
Guitar – Mitch Holder, Tim May
Keyboards – Mike Lang
Percussion – Paulinho Da Costa

Patrick Williams' score to the 1980 film How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a witty, engaging piece of jazzy fusion that surely ranks its composer as the Mancini of the fusion generation. The Williams soundtrack to Blonde (Playboy Jazz, 2001), proves that he even transcends the now less-than-critcally-acceptable fusion genre.

How to Beat the High Cost of Living is a pure delight through and through and the perfect accompaniment to this breezy, light-hearted film about three suburban housewives (Susan Saint James, Jane Curtin and Jessica Lange) who plot to rob a mall to get the cash they need to survive their suburban lifestyles.

Patrick - or "Pat" as he was known early in his career - Williams (b. 1939) has scored hundreds of films, TV movies and TV shows but was probably best known at the time for his rousing theme to the hit TV show, The Streets of San Francisco (1972-76). 

In addition to the film soundtracks that bared his name at the time (Casey's Shadow, The One And Only), Williams had also been riding high on the success of work he did on Billy Joel's The Stranger (Columbia, 1978). Indeed, Williams has since gone onto to provide provocative settings for many other singers including Frank Sinatra (the Duets albums), Barbra Streisand, Paul Anka, Amy Grant, Vince Gill and Brian Setzer.

Williams, who is no relation to Hollywood's other Williams, had released four albums of pop-flavored orchestral jazz on Verve in the late 1960s and occasionally recorded such jazz-oriented albums as Carry On (A&R, 1971), Threshold (Capitol, 1973) and Come On And Shine (MPS, 1977 - aka Theme on Pausa), which features Williams' great disco title cut and his theme to the then well-known TV show Lou Grant (Williams also scored numerous episodes of Lou Grant's spin-off parent, The Mary Tyler Moore Show). 

Many of Williams' records often front-lined prominent jazz soloists, such as Gerry Mulligan, Dave Grusin, Tom Scott, Eddie Daniels or trombonist Bill Watrous. Even his soundtracks give prominence to notable musicians (Dr. John, etc.), which is one reason why so many of his scores have found their way onto LP or CD. Williams also has a way with a tune, something that can perfectly underscore a scene on screen as well as stand on its own, spinning on a turntable in someone's living room.

Williams had it perfected by the time How to Beat the High Cost Of Living came around. The soundtrack was issued on Columbia Records, home at the time to flautist Hubert Laws, who is the perfect choice to perform Williams' sprite and effervescent little numbers, along with guitarist Earl Klugh, who would go on to helm Williams' other soundtracks to Marvin & Tige (Capitol, 1983) and Just Between Friends (Warner Bros., 1986). 

Laws, a busy session player who had recently been featured in jazz settings on such soundtracks as California Suite (CBS Masterworks, 1978), A Hero Ain't Nothin' But A Sandwich (Columbia, 1978) and Flic ou Voyou (Universal, 1979), turns out to be an ideal and inspired match for Klugh. 

The pair had previously been together behind guitarist George Benson on White Rabbit (CTI, 1971) and, more prominently, on three songs from the Bob James album Touchdown (Tappan Zee, 1978), which is probably what sparked Williams to pair the two together for his score (Klugh also appears on the Laws album Family (Columbia, 1980), recorded around the same as the Williams soundtrack).

Laws and Klugh are perfect together and backed here by a small group of L.A. session musicians including the ubiquitous Mike Lang on keyboards (the former Kenton/Zappa sideman became a fixture in Hollywood, and is heard on hundreds of film and TV soundtracks), Tim May and Mitch Holder on guitar, Neil Stubenhaus (who plays the distinctive slap bass which gives the main theme its drive) on bass, Steve Schaeffer on drums and Paulinho Da Costa on percussion. 

Strings are briefly present on occasion as well ("Piccolo Boogie," "Dream Something," "It's So Easy Loving You," "The Caper" and "Song For A Pretty Girl").

Great music abounds here, from "Down River," the film's main theme, and the slow funk of "Night Moves" (good solos from Laws and Klugh) to the swinging and jazzy "The Edge" and the soundtrack-sounding "The Caper," which briefly cops a lick from "Rise," Herb Alpert's hit of the previous year that also featured Lang's keyboards. 

Williams expertly crafts themes that not only work well in the film, but play to the strengths and the advantages of his soloists, notably on "Piccolo Boogie" for Laws and "Dream Something" and "It's So Easy Loving You" for Klugh. Laws, who is at his best here, garners more of the playing time than Klugh gets permitted. But the guitarist makes his parts count for something special each and every time he gets the chance.

I saw the film in 1980, immediately picked up the soundtrack album and its never been out of my collection since. Unfortunately, though, How to Beat the High Cost Of Living has never been issued on CD and - like too much of Williams' other works - has fallen through the cracks of time and been nearly forgotten about. 

As Patrick Williams, Hubert Laws and Earl Klugh are still around making music and some of the music of the fusion era is making a comeback, perhaps some enterprising label like the great Wounded Bird Records will consider giving this long neglected gem a second life.

Hubert Laws - 1980 - Family

Hubert Laws 

01. Ravel's Bolero 8:42
02. What A Night! 8:29
03. Wildfire 5:10
04. Family 7:32
05. Memories Of Minnie (Ripperton) 7:09
06. Say You're Mine 4:29

Acoustic Guitar – Earl Klugh
Bass – Nathan East
Clarinet, Soloist [Clarinet Solo] – Bill Draper
Drums – Leon "Ndugu" Chancler
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes Piano] – Bobby Lyle
Flute [Flute, Bass Flute], Piccolo Flute [Piccolo] – Hubert Laws
Piano, Soloist [Acoustic Piano Solo] – Chick Corea
Snare [Classical Snare Drum] – Timm Boatman
Vibraphone [Vibes] – Woody "Onaje" Murray

Let's see, how do I put this? I heard Laws' Bolero on my local public radio jazz station and that was all I needed. Ravel's Bolero is probably one of the few pieces of music that sends me, even without the need for mind-altering substances.
Unfortunately, the rest of the CD gets kind of mired in what I can only describe as Barry White-ish background music. If Hubert would just trade the electric bass for a stand-up; lose the strings, trade the drummer's sticks for some brushes and drop the echo chamber effect, his beautiful flute would just come right through.

Hubert Laws - 1979 - Land Of Passion

Hubert Laws 
Land Of Passion

01. Music Forever 5:13
02. Land Of Passion 5:45
03. We're In Ecstacy 7:07
04. Heartbeats 6:34
05. The Key 6:55
06. We Will Be 4:36

Bass – Bobby Vega (tracks: B3), James Jameson
Brass – Bobby Bryant, Snooky Young, Oscar Brashear, Raymond Brown
Cello – Nils Oliver, Raymond Kelly, Ron Cooper
Drums – Leon ''Ndugu'' Chancler, Raymond Pounds (tracks: B3)
Flute, [Alto] Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Melvin Robinson (tracks: B3), Pat Kelley (tracks: B3), Roland Bautista
Percussion – Victor Feldman
Piano – Barnaby Finch (tracks: B3), Patrice Rushen
Saxophone – Ronnie Laws
Strings – Arnold Belnick, Bonnie Douglas, Dorothy Wade, Endre Granat, Janice Dower, Marcia Van Dyke, Paul Shure, Robert Sushel, Sandy Seymour
Synthesizer – Larry Dunn
Synthesizer [Moog] – Ronnie Laws (tracks: B3)
Trombone – Benny Powell, Garnett Brown, Maurice Spears
Vocals – Blanch Laws, Debra Laws, Eloise Laws, Johnny Laws

This album was recorded in October and December, 1978.

When Columbia released Land of Passion in 1979, the album received scathing reviews from jazz critics. They knew Hubert Laws for his work as a jazz instrumentalist, and for the most part, Land of Passion isn't instrumental jazz -- it isn't hard bop, post-bop, or even fusion. The main focus of this LP is mellow, mildly jazzy R&B/pop (with the occasional instrumental). So serious jazz standards shouldn't be applied. Unfortunately, the critics who trashed Land of Passion did apply serious jazz standards, which is sort of like a food critic lambasting an Italian restaurant because it doesn't provide Vietnamese or Cambodian cuisine. Land of Passion needs to be judged by R&B/pop and quiet storm standards, and when those standards are applied, one has to say that this record is likable but not mind-blowing. Laws was obviously going after the quiet storm crowd when he recorded gentle tunes like "Music Forever" and "We're in Ecstasy." Arguably, quiet storm music falls into two main categories: R&B/pop vocals (Luther Vandross, Phyllis Hyman, Anita Baker) and R&B-minded crossover jazz (Grover Washington, Jr., David Sanborn, Lonnie Liston Smith). For the most part, this LP (which had yet to be reissued on CD when the 21st century arrived) falls into the former category, although it does contain two gently funky instrumentals: "We Will Be" and "Heartbeats." Neither are masterpieces, but they have a lot more substance and integrity than the sort of elevator Muzak that Kenny G and Richard Elliot were known for in the 1980s and 1990s. Not one of Laws' essential releases, Land of Passion must be taken for what it is: a pleasant but unremarkable collection of mood music.

Hubert Laws - 1978 - Say It With Silence

Hubert Laws 
Say It With Silence

01. The Baron 5:51
02. False Faces 6:20
03. Love Gets Better 5:05
04. It Happens Every Day 7:38
05. Say It With Silence 8:19

Drums – Gregory Errico
Electric Bass – Robert Vega
Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Barnaby E. Finch
Flute, Piccolo Flute – Hubert Laws
Percussion – Victor Feldman
Rhythm Guitar – Melvin Robinson
Soloist, Guitar – Patrick Kelley
Synthesizer [Arp] – Jerry Peters
Trombone – Garnet Brown, Maurice Spears, Thurman A. Green
Trumpet – Bobby Bryant, Snooky Young, Ray Brown (2)

Hubert Laws - 1977 - The San Francisco Concert

Hubert Laws 
The San Francisco Concert

01. Modadji 12:10
02. Feel Like Making Love 6:14
03. Farandole (L'Arlesienne Suite #2) 10:58
04. Scheherazade 8:20

Bass – Gary King
Bass [String Bass] – Jeffrey Neighbor, Michelle Burr
Bass Trombone – Maurice Spears
Cello – Amy Radner, Joel Cohen , Margaret Moores, Mary Anne Meredith, Richard Eade, Terry Adams
Drums – Harvey Mason
Flute – Hubert Laws
French Horn – Jeremy Merrill, Stuart Gronningen
Guitar – Glen Deardorff
Harp – Randall Pratt
Keyboards – Bob James
Trombone – Daniel Livesay, George Bohanon
Trumpet – Allen Smith, Snooky Young, Frederick Berry, Oscar Brashear
Viola – Albert White, Arthur Bauch, Don Ehrlich, Hope Bauch, Nancy Ellis, Thomas Heimberg
Violin – Alexander Horvath, Anne Crowden, Ardeen De Camp, Beth Gibson, Carl Pedersen, Daniel Kobialka, Donna Lerew, Frances Schorr, Greg Mazmanian, Judith Poska, Myra Bucky, Ruggiero Pelosi, Verne Sellin, Virginia Baker, Zaven Melikian
Violin, Concertmaster – Nathan Rubin

Recorded at Paramount Theatre, Oakland, California October 4, 1975.

Review by Jimmy James:

I first heard this album on a flight from LA to NY back in August 1977, and soon thereafter purchased a copy at the local record store (yup, vinyl was still king back in the mid-'70s). This live recording of jazz fautist Hubert Laws with the SFSO was captured very well -- it has a good mix of ambient and direct micing, so you get a sense of the room as well as Hubert's flute and the orchestra.

Now I'm a guitar player and I must confess that I don't listen to a whole lotta flute music. Back in 1977 I was listening to alot of LA studio session players' solo albums, like Lee Ritenour's "Captain Fingers," Larry Carlton's many sides with The Crusaders and Steely Dan, and Robben Ford's "The Inside Story." What I am trying to say is that, you'd think some guitar dude would be the least likely candidate to enjoy an album of Hubert Laws with the SFSO, but the truth is the exact opposite. This is a great album of music, with solid arrangements, and a remarkably nice "fit" between the jazzier Laws and the more classical SFSO.

The tune that captured my attention first was Laws' interpretation of Roberta Flack's classic "Feel Like Making Love To You;" Hubert's endlessly creative embelishment of the melody is truly a thing of beauty. Laws can swing hard or he can swing more gently, but he always has at least a touch of swing in his playing, even on the classical-sounding "Sheherezade."

Hubert Laws - 1976 - Romeo & Juliet

Hubert Laws 
Romeo & Juliet

01. Undecided 6:07
02. Tryin' To Get The Feeling Again 8:07
03. Forlane 4:11
04. Romeo & Juliet 7:41
05. What Are We Gonna Do? 5:30
06. Guatemala Connection 5:43

Bass – Gary King
Clavinet – Mark Gray (tracks: B3)
Clavinet, Electric Piano [Fender Rhodes] – Bob James
Drums – Andy Newmark, Steve Gadd (tracks: A1)
Flute [Alto & Bass], Piccolo Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Barry Finnerty (tracks: A2 to A3, B3), Eric Gale (tracks: A1 to A2, B2 to B3), Richie Resnicoff (tracks: B2 to B3), Steve Kahn (tracks: B1)
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Strings – Alan Shulman, Alfred Brown, Barry Sinclair, Charles McCracken, David Nadien, Emanuel Green, Emanuel Vardi, Guy Lumia, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Lookofsky, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Max Pollikoff, Paul Gershman, Seymour Barab
Trombone – Alan Raph, David Taylor, Wayne Andre
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Alan Rubin, Bernie Glow, Jon Faddis, Marvin Stamm, Randy Brecker
Voice – Denise Wigfall, Kenneth Coles, Robin Wilson, Shirley Thompson

I just love this album. I have owned the original album since 1979 and when my eyes fell on the CD in one of our local shops about seven years ago now, I didn't have to think twice and bought it straight away. I still love to listen to it once every so often. The recording quality is just superb, especially on the acoustic recordings! A jazzfunk masterpiece, with a great rythm section (Andy Newmark and Ralph MacDonald), funky bass (Gary King), Bob James on keyboards and the cool and sophisticated flute of the man himself. Huberts interpretations of Ravel's 'Forlane' and Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet' are just awsome. Played with tremendous virtuosity, perfect timing and outstanding deliverance! If you are in to jazz and funk but you love your classical music too, you are going to be hooked, I know I am!

Hubert Laws - 1975 - The Chicago Theme

Hubert Laws 
The Chicago Theme

01. The Chicago Theme (Love Loop) 5:37
02. Midnight At The Oasis 5:28
03. You Make Me Feel Brand New 5:50
04. Going Home 5:04
05. I Had A Dream 6:00
06. Inflation Chaser 6:00

Alto Saxophone – David Sanborn
Bass – Doug Bascomb
Guitar – Joe Beck, Phil Upchurch, George Benson, Eric Gale,  Richie Resnicoff
Bass – Ron Carter
Clavinet – Bob James
Piano – Bob James
Bass – Stanley Clarke
Drums – Andrew Smith
Tenor Saxophone, Soloist – Mike Brecker
Cello – Alan Shulman, George Ricci
Drums – Steve Gadd
Flute – Hubert Laws
Keyboards – Don Grolnick
Percussion – Ralph MacDonald
Trumpet – Randy Brecker
Viola – Al Brown, Manny Vardi
Violin – Charles Libove, David Nadien, Emanuel Green, Gayle Dixon, Harold Kohon, Harry Cykman, Harry Lookofsky, Matthew Raimondi, Max Ellen, Paul Gershman

Hubert Laws made his finest recordings playing arrangements by Don Sebesky. Unfortunately, starting with this project, Bob James began to take over the writing chores, and the flutist's recordings became much more commercial. Rather than performing with a small group, as he did on his best sessions, Laws is joined by strings and funky rhythm sections playing now-dated commercial grooves. The six selections (which include James' forgettable "Chicago Theme," "Midnight at the Oasis" and Dvorák's "Going Home") are listenable, but nothing special. The only reason to acquire this out of print LP is for Laws' still-superb flute playing.

Hubert Laws - 1974 - In The Beginning

Hubert Laws 
In The Beginning

01. In The Beginning 6:52
02. Restoration 8:57
03. Gymnopedie #1 3:58
04. Come Ye Disconsolate 5:19
05. Airegin 5:29
06. Moment's Notice 6:54
07. Reconciliation 10:06
08. Mean Lene 15:35

Bass – Ron Carter
Cello – George Ricci
Drums – Steve Gadd
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Gene Bertoncini
Organ, Strings – Richard Tee (tracks: B2)
Percussion – Airto
Percussion, Vibraphone – Dave Friedman
Piano – Bob James (tracks: A2, B1 to B3, C1, C2, D1), Clare Fischer (tracks: A1, D1), Rodgers Grant (tracks: D1)
Tenor Saxophone – Ronnie Laws
Viola – Emanuel Vardi
Violin – David Nadien

The release of a double album during the LP-era could be a double-edged sword. This format provided a platform for artists to elaborate on their ideas and serve a hefty portion of music to their fans and potential followers, but a single record forced musicians to self-edit a bit more, making them more likely to come out at the other end with a concise artistic statement. Flautist Hubert Laws' In The Beginning, hitting shelves again as part of the fourth wave of the CTI Masterworks reissue campaign, is the perfect example of an album that can be viewed from both sides of this issue. 

Some people regard this album as the crown jewel in Laws' catalog, but others would take the brevity and soulful beauty of an album like Morning Star (CTI, 1972) over this weighty package. A 63-minute listening affair wouldn't turn many heads today, with plenty of jazz releases going well-beyond that length, but even a label such as CTI, with its large-than-life attitude, didn't put together such bulging record packages very often. Taylor's affection for, and faith in, Hubert Laws was made clear with this release, and the flautist seized the opportunity and created one of the most diverse and wide-ranging statements that both he and CTI ever released. 

The title track is the perfect example of the multiple-personalities present in this music. This piece opens the album with a section of music that sounds like a meeting of free jazz and classical composer Anton Webern, arrives at a slow-and-bluesy place, and even touches on a funk feel along the way. In other places, Laws is more likely to hold firm to a single ideal, allowing rising-and-falling tides of energy and natural evolution to account for any changes in the topography of a performance. "Restoration"—which opens with some sensitive vibraphone work from Dave Friedman, contains a theme that comes off like an attractive bluesy version of an English carol, and heats up during Laws' solo—is a prime example of music built in this fashion. While newly arranged versions of classical music had become a predictable part of many CTI packages by the time this album was released, that fact doesn't diminish the beauty found on the performance of Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie No.1" here. 

Laws dips into the soul-gospel well for a performance of "Come Ye Disconsolate," which is buoyed by the organ work of session legend and Stuff band member Richard Tee, and the album reaches its climax with his nod toward tenor saxophonists Sonny Rollins and John Coltrane. Rollins' "Airegin" is a drums and flute affair, with Steve Gadd providing a busy bottom for Laws flute to work over; but Coltrane's "Moment's Notice," which features some fine saxophone work from the flautist's brother, Ronnie Laws, gets the whole band in on the action. 

If Laws had been forced to trim the length of the album, the final two tracks would have been likely victims, left to perish on the cutting room floor. The 10-minute long "Reconciliation" is more of a platform for soloing than anything else, and Laws' Brazil-to-Cuba journey with stop-overs in swing country ("Mean Lene"), while far more enjoyable than its predecessor, wears out its welcome with a 15-minute lifespan. After all is said and done, and despite the fact that the album roams long and far on certain pieces, In The Beginning still stands the test of time and can be viewed as one of the great achievements in the CTI catalog, and in the career of flute master Hubert Laws. 

Milt Jackson With Hubert Laws - 1974 - Goodbye

Milt Jackson With Hubert Laws  

01. Detour Ahead 7:55
02. Goodbye 9:17
03. Old Devil Moon 5:46
04. SKJ 6:45
05. Opus De Funk 6:41

Bass – Ron Carter
Drums – Billy Cobham (tracks: B2), Steve Gadd (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B3)
Flute – Hubert Laws
Piano – Cedar Walton (tracks: A1, A2, B1, B3), Herbie Hancock (tracks: B2)
Trumpet – Freddie Hubbard (tracks: B2)
Vibraphone [Vibes] – Milt Jackson

Recorded December, 1973
except SKJ recorded December, 1972

By 1967, Creed Taylor was a veteran of the music industry. He had worked numerous record labels, including Bethlehem, ABC and Verve. However in 1967, Creed Taylor left Verve to join Herb Albert and Jerry Moss’ A&M Records. This was something of a coup for A&M Records, as Creed Taylor had an impressive track record. 

At ABC, Creed founded one of jazz’s most influential labels, Impulse! and signed John Coltrane in 1960. With one of the legends of jazz onboard, McCoy Tyner, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Charles Mingus, Albert Ayler and Archie Shepp would then sign to Verve. Impulse! would go on to release some of the most innovative and influential jazz of the sixties. By then, Creed Taylor had moved on to Verve in 1961.

Now working for Verve Records, Creed Taylor introduced bossa nova to America. Creed signed artists like Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz. Their music caught the attention of Charlie Byrd and Dizzy Gillespie. Soon, Verve Records was one of the most successful jazz labels. However, after six years at Verve Records, Creed Taylor was on the move.

He signed to A&M in 1967. That’s where CTi Records was born. Originally, CTi Records was an imprint of A&M. A&M was responsible for distributing CTi Records’ releases. That was the case right through until 1969, when Creed Taylor left A&M. The following year, CTi Records become an independent record company.  

Many people saw Creed Taylor’s decision to leave A&M as risky. Not Creed Taylor though. He saw it as a carefully calculated risk. Music was about to change. Especially jazz music. Creed Taylor foresaw the  and was determined that CTi Records would be at the forefront of this change. So he began signing some of the most talented jazz musicians of that time to CTi Records. This included Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock. Another artist that Creed Taylor signed to Cti Records in 1970, was forty-seven year old vibes player Milt Jackson.

He would spend three years at CTi Records, and released a trio of albums. This included Sunflower and Goodbye, which have been digitally remastered, and were recently released by BGO Records on one CD. On both Sunflower and Goodbye, Milt Jackson’s is joined by an all-star band, which features many other artists signed to CTi Records.

By the time Milt Jackson signed to CTi Records, he was a musical veteran. He had released thirty-six albums, including collaborations with some of the biggest names in jazz. John Coltrane, Coleman Hawkins, Wes Montgomery, Oscar Peterson and Ray Charles had all collaborated with Milt Jackson. His first collaboration on an album came in 1948.

Milt Jackson was then twenty-five. He was born in Detroit on 1st January 1923. Music was omnipresent in the Jackson household. It played an important part in everyday. So did the church, where Milt Jackson would later sing gospel.

Before that, Milt Jackson began searching for the right musical instrument for him. This search began when seven year old Milt Jackson began to play the guitar. Then when he was eleven Milt switched to piano. However, when Milt started at Miller High School, he began playing drums and then timpani and violin. Somehow, Milt even found time to sing in the school choir. By the time he was sixteen, Milt began touring with the gospel group the Evangelist Singers. However, that wasn’t where his future lay.

For sixteen year old Milt Jackson, hearing Lionel Hampton playing the vibraphone in Benny Goodman’s band, changed not just his musical direction, but his life. Realising that the vibraphone was the instrument for him, Milt Jackson spent the next few years dedicating himself to learning how to play the vibes. This paid off.

In 1945, Milt Jackson was discovered by Dizzy Gillespie, and he became a member of his sextet. Before long, Milt was a familiar face in Dizzy Gillespie’s bands. This was something of a coup for the young vibes player, and certainly got him noticed. Milt went on to Milt play alongside Woody Herman, Thelonious Monk, Charlie Parker and Howard McGhee, with whom he recorded an album in 1948

Trumpeter Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson entered the studio in 1948 to record an album. They were joined by some of the top musicians of the day. Together, they recorded twelve tracks, which eventually, were released as Howard McGhee and Milt Jackson in 1955. Little did Milt Jackson realise that this was the first of a prolific career.

Milt Jackson’s career would eventually spanned six decades. His recording career began in earnest in 1952. By then, Milt had formed the Milt Jackson Quartet in 1950. It would later become the Modern Jazz Quartet, which right through until 1974, when it disbanded, would released ambitious and groundbreaking music. Still, though Milt managed to juggle his solo career with his would within the Modern Jazz Quartet.

Two years after the formation of the the Milt Jackson Quartet, its founder released his solo debut album, Wizard of the Vibes. It featured music recorded between 1948 and 1952. Three years later, and the Milt Jackson Quartet released their eponymous debut album on Prestige. The following year, was one of the most productive of Milt’s early career.

During 1956, Milt Jackson released a quartet of solo albums. By then, Milt had acquired the nickname Bags, after arriving at a gig with bags under his eyes. They were the result of too many nights carousing into the early others. However, Milt’s new nickname provided inspiration for many an album title, including  Roll ‘Em Bags. It featured music that had been recorded between 1949 and 1956; while Meet Milt Jackson had been recorded between 1954 and 1956. Milt’s other releases were Opus de Jazz and The Jazz Skyline. They showcased Milt Jackson as developed and blossomed as an artist. That would be the case throughout the remainder of the fifties.

When Milt Jackson released Plenty, Plenty Soul in 1957, it proved to be his final release for Savoy. He would move to Atlantic Records, and later in 1957, released Plenty, Plenty Soul and Bags and Flutes. Milt continued to be a prolific solo artist, but still somehow, found time to record with the Modern Jazz Quartet and collaborate with other artists.

This included recording Soul Brothers with Ray Charles in 1958. Then in 1959, Milt Jackson recorded Bean Bags with Coleman Hawkins. That year, Milt released his last solo album of the fifties, Bags’ Opus. It’s regarded as one of the finest album Milt recorded for Atlantic Records during the late fifties. The Atlantic Records’ years continued into the sixties.

As the sixties dawned, Milt Jackson released Bags and Trane, his collaboration with John Coltrane in 1960. It was regarded as was one of Milt’s best collaborations, and featured a series of stellar performance from both men. The other album Milt released during 1960, was The Ballad Artistry Of Milt Jackson, where he works his way through a series of standards. Alas it wasn’t one of Milt’s finest hours. Reviews of the the album were mixed. 

Milt’s next album was another high profile collaboration.

This was  Soul Meeting, a collaboration between Milt Jackson and Ray Charles. It was released in 1961, the year Milt’s time at Atlantic Records drew to a close. For the rest of 1961, he released albums on a variety of labels.

Among them, were Verve, who released Very Tall, Milt Jackson’s collaboration with jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. It was released in 1961, the same year that Milt released Statements on Impulse! However, it was Milt’s 1961 collaboration with Wes Montgomery, Bags Meets Wes! that resulted in him finding a new home, Riverside.

It was home for Milt Jackson for the next few years. Milt released Big Bigs and Invitation during 1962. For Someone I Love followed in 1963, with Milt Jackson Quintet Live at the Village Gate being released in 1964. By then, Milt had moved on again.

The next few years saw Milt Jackson flit between labels big and small. He released Jazz ‘N’ Samba on Impulse in 1964, and somewhat belatedly, Atlantic Records released Vibrations, which had been recorded in 1960 and 1961. That was when Atlantic Records was home for Milt. Not anymore. Home was now the Limelight label, which released In A New Setting in 1964. This would home for Milt for the next couple of years. Before that though, Milt would on the collaboration trail.

During 1964, released three collaborations. This included Milt Jackson with Orchestra Enrico Intra’s album Sings. Milt Jackson and Sonny Still collaborated on the album In The Beginning. However, the third collaboration was with Ray Brown, and would become Milt’s most productive and longest lasting musical of the sixties.

It was in 1964 that Milt Jackson and Ray Brown released the first of two collaborations on Verve, Much in Common. This was followed by Ray Brown-Milt Jackson. The other album Milt released during 1965 was Milt Jackson At The Museum of Modern Art. Just like In A New Setting, it was released on Limelight, which had become Milt’s new home. Limelight released Born Free in 1966, which was his swan-song for the label.

Milt Jackson returned in 1968 with a new ensemble, Milt Jackson and the Hip String Quartet. It included Hubert Laws who Ron Carter, who Milt would join forces with at Creed Taylor’s CTi Records. That was two years down the line.

Before that, Milt Jackson and Ray Brown released a trio of collaborations during 1969. That’s the Way It Is and Just the Way It Had to Be were live albums. The other album Memphis Jackson, was a studio album which featured an all-star cast, that included the Ray Brown Big Band. Despite the illustrious array of talent on display, critics weren’t impressed. It was an inauspicious end to the sixties.

During the sixties, Milt Jackson had been a prolific artist. Not only had released numerous solo albums, but he had continually collaborated. Then there was the albums Milt had recorded with the Modern Jazz Quartet. They recorded throughout the sixties, and were equally prolific. Despite this, the Modern Jazz Quartet were no longer regarded by the latest generation of jazz aficionados as pioneers. Instead, fusion was King where jazz was concerned.

Fusion was a marriage of jazz, funk and rock and psychedelia, that had been born in the late sixties. Among its founding fathers were Gary Burton, Larry Coryell and Miles Davis. They brought onboard Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Ron Carter and Herbie Hancock. With some of jazz’s big hitters joining the fusion revolution, Creed Taylor began signing some of this musical movement’s leading lights to CTi Records. However, Creed Taylor wasn’t just signing artists who played fusion. He had signed jazz guitarist George Benson and several Bossa Nova artists. His latest signing in 1970, was forty-seven year old Milt Jackson.

Signing to CTi Records was a no-brainer for Milt Jackson. He had been drifting for the last few years, and latterly, hadn’t reached the heights of his early career. Maybe Creed Taylor could rejuvenate his Milt’s career? CTi Records was regarded as a label that was going places. It was also a label that was home to some of the best and most innovative jazz musicians of a generation. These musicians would happily switch between bandleader and sidemen. 

In the case of Milt Jackson, he made his CTi Records’ debut on Stanley Turrentine’s Cherry. He was one of the guest artists on the album when it was recorded in May 1972. Then seven months later, on the 12th and 13th December 1972, Milt Jackson released his CTi Records’ debut Sunflower.

After the success of Sunflower, Creed Taylor sent Milt Jackson into the studio to record another album in December 1973. Milt Jackson and his band would record four new songs. This included the he Milt Jackson penned S.K.J. and the jazz standard Old Devil Moon. Detour Ahead had been penned by Lou Crter, Herb Ellis and Johnny Frigo, while Goodbye was a Gordon Jenkins composition that for many a year, had been the closing song to the Benny Goodman Orchestra’s show. These tracks were recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey during December, 1973. 

Joining Milt Jackson this time round was a much smaller band, than last time. The sextet featured a rhythm section of drummer Steve Gadd and bassist Ron Carter, plus pianist Cedar Walton, flautist Hubert Laws and Milt Jackson on vibes. Creed Taylor again produced Goodbye. These four tracks would form the basis of Goodbye.

There were tracks from the Sunflower sessions that hadn’t been used. The best of these tracks was the Horris Silver composition Opus de Funk. It had been recorded on December 12th 1972, at Rudy Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs. That day, the lineup featured drummer Billy Cobham, pianist Herbie Hancock, trumpeter Freddie Hubbard and Milt Jackson on vibes. Now Sunflower was complete, and would be released later in 1974.

When critics received a copy of Goodbye, it was credited to Milt Jackson with Hubert Laws. That was no surprise to those who heard the album. The Houston born flautist had played such an important role in the sound and success of album. None more so that than the languid, dreamy take on Old Devil Moon. It just meanders along beautifully, with Hubert Laws’ flute and Milt Jackson’s vibes playing leading roles.The rhythm section play slowly and carefully, never overplaying and always leaving space for the soloists. It’s a similar case on S.K.J., with its bop stylings. As it meanders along, Cedar Walton’s piano and the vibes playing starring roles, as an element of funk is introduced later as S.K.J. starts to groove and swing. Mostly, though, jazz is to the fore on S.K.J. Soon, though, the tempo rises.

Opus de Funk finds Milt Jackson and his band stretching their legs. The tempo rise on this oft covered hard bop number. With Steve Gadd’s drums propelling the arrangement along, a glorious and smoking slice of jazz unfolds. However, on Detour Ahead the tempo drops. Milt and his band take the opportunity to explore the track’s subtleties and nuances. That’s the case throughout from the opening bars to the closing notes, when the band never miss a beat. All too soon, Milt Jackson bids the audience Goodbye on the mid-tempo title-track.Just like the previous track, everyone more than plays their part in the sound and success of Goodbye. However, when the solos come round, Hubert Laws steals the show, with pianist Cedar Walton deserving an honourable mention. Milt seems content and secure enough, to allow other members of the band shine. He knows it’s for the greater good, and that it’s his name that’s on Goodbye. It was released later in 1974.

When Goodbye was released, most of the reviews were positive. The reinvention of Milt Jackson continued, on album where elements of post bop, hard bop and funk. This results in music that swings, and is melodic, harmonic and full of subtleties, surprises and nuances. Goodbye is also an accomplished and polished album, from a band that features seasoned jazzers. Despite this, Goodbye failed to replicate the commercial success of Sunflower. Goodbye still found an audience, but not like Milt, Creed Tylor and everyone at CTi Records had hoped. It was disappointing commercially, considering Sunflower had been Milt Jackson’s biggest selling album. 

Hubert Laws - 1973 - Carnegie Hall

Hubert Laws
Carnegie Hall

01. Windows / Fire And Rain 15:30
02. Passacaglia In C Minor 20:42

Bass – Ron Carter
Bassoon – Dave Miller
Drums – Billy Cobham, Freddie Waits
Electric Piano, Piano – Bob James
Engineer – Carmine Rubino, Frank Hubac
Flute – Hubert Laws
Guitar – Gene Bertoncin
Vibraphone – David Friedman

Recorded at Carnegie Hall January 12, 1973

Hubert Laws' 1974 Carnegie Hall concert is one of CTI's greatest releases and one of the rarest. Available on CD only in this King Records version issued in Japan, the music is both melodic and hypnotic. The leader's complex solos and clear tone are testimony to Laws' superb musicianship at a career peak. The flutist is supported by Ron Carter's virtuoso bass (a highlight is an outstanding solo on side B). Billy Cobham's fluid and subtle cymbal work is one of the record's highlights (Cobham's contribution was reportedly recorded in post production at Rudy van Gelder's studios; the recording quality itself is of a very high standard). Gene Bertoncini and Bob James are among the other great players making this one of CTI's most enduring records. I have gotten well over thirty years of enjoyment from this record and it still rewards each listening. Highly recommended.

Hubert Laws - 1972 - Morning Star

Hubert Laws 
Morning Star

01. Morning Star 7:54
02. Let Her Go 4:50
03. Where Is The Love 4:34
04. No More 5:00
05. Amazing Grace 7:20
06. What Do You Think Of This World Now? 6:00

Bass – Ron Carter
Bassoon – Jack Knitzer
Cello – Charles McCracken, George Koutzen, Lucien Schmit
Drums – Billy Cobham
Electric Piano – Bob James
Flute, Alto Flute, Clarinet – Phil Bodner
Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo Flute – Hubert Laws
Flute, Alto Flute, Piccolo Flute, English Horn – Romeo Penque
French Horn – Jim Buffington
Guitar – John Tropea
Harp – Gloria Agostini
Percussion – David Friedman, Ralph MacDonald
Trombone – Garnett Brown
Trumpet, Flugelhorn – Alan Rubin, Marvin Stamm
Vibraphone – David Friedman
Violin – David Nadien, Elliot Rosoff, Emanuel Green, Gene Orloff, Harry Cykman, Harry Lookofsky, Irving Spice, Max Ellen, Paul Gershman
Vocals – Eloise Laws, Lani Groves, Tasha Thomas
Vocals – Debra Laws

After the success of 1970's Afro-Classic, Hubert Laws re-teamed with arranger/conductor Don Sebesky for 1972's Morning Star, his third date for producer Creed Taylor's CTI. Laws' sidemen for the date included Ron Carter on bass, Bob James on electric piano, Billy Cobham and Ralph McDonald on drums, guitarist John Tropea, and vibraphonist/percussionist Dave Friedman. Rather than follow up Afro-Classic with another program of primarily classical numbers, Taylor, Laws, and Sebesky employed a large string, wind, and brass ensemble and went to the pop-jazz side of the spectrum. The title track of this gorgeous set is a laid-back, lilting jazz tune with Laws' flute introducing the melody, followed by a tight, economical yet lengthy and expressive James solo and the winds flowing in momentarily before the brass explodes into a gorgeous swing before disappearing again very quickly. James' solo flows through both beautifully. Laws' own break is impressionistic, yet full of elemental swing and classical flourishes. On the beautifully textured reading of "Where Is the Love," Laws' flute plays and darts soulfully around the melody as James colors the margins and Carter ushers in a groove change with his diligent lines accenting Cobham's backbeat. The strings, sweet as they are, underscore rather than overpower the band, adding an entirely different dimension to the arrangement. The reading of "Amazing Grace" is introduced slowly by Laws playing the melody in the lower register. James joins him on the changes before the strings enter sparsely at the minute mark. They color Laws' flute with elegance and a touch of Celtic hymnody. A harp duets with Laws on the third verse; violins and cellos brighten it sparely. When Carter enters, the tempo picks up; the mood changes instantly. It begins to sway, shimmer, and shift, reaching nearly transcendent heights of expression before it all quiets down to Laws' flute unaccompanied, improvising on Bach before returning to the folk roots of the song. These are just the highlights; Morning Star is a joy all the way through, whether it's in the bluesy soul-jazz of "No More" or the occasionally abstract "What Do You Think of This World Now?," which riffs on "America the Beautiful." It's Laws at his very best; it helped define the essence of CTI.