Hubert Laws: In The Beginning
In The Beginning
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' solois 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.
Tracks: In The Beginning; Restoration; Gymnopedie No.1; Come Ye Disconsolate; Airegin; Moment's Notice; Reconciliation; Mean Lene.
Personnel: Hubert Laws: flute; Ron Carter: bass; Steve Gadd: drums; Airto: percussion; Dave Friedman: vibraphone; Gene Bertoncini: guitar; Clare Fischer: electric piano (1), piano (8); Rodgers Grant: piano (8); Bob James: piano, electric piano; Richard Tee: organ (4); Ronnie Laws: tenor saxophone; David Nadien: violin; Emanuel Vardi: violin; George Ricci: cello.