Hubert Laws: The Rite Of Spring

The Songs:

  1. Pavane
  2. The Rite Of Spring
  3. Syrinx
  4. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (First Movement)
  5. Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (Second Movement)

Personnel:

  • Hubert Laws – flute
  • Wally Kane (Tracks 1-3), Jane Taylor (Tracks 4-5) – bassoon
  • Bob James – keyboards
  • Gene Bertoncini (Tracks 1-3); Stuart Scharf (Tracks 4-5) – guitar
  • Ron Carter – bass
  • Jack DeJohnette – drums
  • Dave Friedman – vibes & percussion
  • Airto Moreira – percussion

In June of 1971, Hubert Laws recorded his third album for CTI Records. He was quickly establishing himself as the pre-eminent jazz flautist and with the release of this classic album, he proved to be in a class all to himself. The songs on the album are all taken from the classical repertoire, but the arrangements by studio and big band veteran Don Sebesky added a distinctive jazz flavor. Many of these type of recordings exist, but it is often difficult to make the music work in both camps. Usually more traditional classical players do not have a good jazz feel, while traditional repertoire may suffer artistically in the hands of some jazz performers. This album became an instant classic by being true to both schools, showing integrity to the spirit of the original pieces, while leaving plenty of room for artistic expression in reinterpreting them in a jazz context. One of the main reasons for this was the fine musicianship of the performers, many of whom had deep roots in both fields.

Hubert Laws, who was already playing the saxophone, took up the flute in high school and quickly became an advanced student. While still a student, he was an early member of the Crusaders. He went on to study at Juilliard with famed teacher Julius Baker. Dave Friedman (who plays vibes on the recording), also studied at Juilliard at the same time as Laws. They both performed together as members of  the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Pianist Bob James, who also released various recordings of classical/jazz mixes, had a strong classical background and eventually released two albums of Baroque keyboard music for CBS Masterworks. Guitarist Gene Bertoncini was a faculty member at the Eastman School of Music and had previously recorded similar pieces with the original Paul Winter Consort. Jane Taylor was the founding bassoonist with the Dorian Wind Quintet. Ron Carter, who had been a member of the famed Miles Davis Quintet, had studied at Eastman and got his Master’s in Music at the Manhattan School of Music. (Arranger Don Sebesky had also studied at the Manhattan School.)

Alongside these classically trained jazz musicians was Brazilian percussionist Airto Moreira, who had played with Miles Davis and was a founding member of both Weather Report and Return to Forever. His exotic sounds add a world music flavor to this truly musical fusion album, which features compositions by Fauré, Bach, the title track by Stravinsky, which becomes even more primal-sounding, and a multi-tracked version of Debussy’s solo flute work, Syrinx. Laws went on to record other classically inspired jazz works by composers including Bach, Rimsky-Korsakov, Telemann, Ravel, and Claude Bolling, but none were as musically or commercially successful as this. (Buy it here.)

Suggested Reading:

Pilar Estevan. Talking With Flutists(Includes interviews with Hubert Laws, Julius Baker, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and several other leading performers.)

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