Hubert Laws – The Laws Of Jazz (1964)

There are some jazz fans who find little to get excited about when it comes to certain instruments. The jazz bagpipes of Rufus Harley Jr. and Dorothy Ashby’s harp are novel, but hardly enflame the passions and therefore have a limited following. Likewise, the flute was generally considered a second or third tier instrument in jazz played only by multi-instrumentalists such as James Clay, Eric Dolphy, Yusef Lateef, Roland Kirk and David Newman as an auxiliary to the saxophone. But these guys were very serious about the potential of their flute as a main voice in a jazz ensemble and were able to superimpose upon it the abandon that made their sax soloing so thrilling. Hubert Laws started on sax and clarinet but took up flute in his mid-teens and it quickly became his only instrument. As a young man he played with a nascent version of The Jazz Crusaders then studied at the Juilliard School on a scholarship and naturally developed faultless technique. While there he became friends with fellow student, pianist Chick Corea, who accompanied Laws on his debut LP The Laws Of Jazz.

Full of catchy tunes and vibrant performances, this 1964 Atlantic Records release is a demonstration of how proficient a player he had already become. He lacks the whirlwind fire of Kirk and Dolphy probably because he doesn’t bring a sax sensibility to his soloing, but makes up for this with impressive tonal purity, note control and fleetness. The song selection is a grab-bag of styles that showcase his dexterity, with two selections on which he plays piccolo flute with great expertise (especially ‘And Don’t You Forget It’). His solo on the eight-minute ‘Bimbe Blue’ is the only extended exploration on the album, and Chick Corea also gets to stretch out with a solo that hints at the personal style he would later make his own. There are a couple of funky happy-go-lucky tunes (‘Miss Thing’ and ‘Black Eyed Peas And Rice’) that at first appear to be borderline corny, but are actually entertaining ear-worms in disguise, and the ballad ‘All Soul’ is thoroughly tasty. A safe, but highly listenable debut, The Laws Of Jazz is a million miles from the albums he would record in the 70s like Wild Flower and the excellent In The Beginning, and is perhaps the most straight ahead jazz album of his career.

 

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