Hubert Laws: My Time Has Come

Posted October 9, 2015 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized

Hubert Laws lives in a two-story house in Los Angeles, following the time-honored tradition of house upstairs and shop/studio below. On a bright spring morning, this writer passes through the security gate and heads upstairs, greeting the famed flutist. In a tennis outfit and surrounded by living-room walls lined with his gold and platinum records, and covers of albums by his saxist brother Ronnie Laws, Hubert looks the picture of health.

It’s been seven years since Laws’ last solo album, New Earth Sonata. Now, finally, comes Laws’ long-awaited return to action, fittingly entitled My Time Will Come. While Laws has done sporadic live playing in the interim with his own group, and assorted studio work, he hasn’t added to his discography—some 19 titles strong now—until this year.

When prominent jazz artists drop out of sight—at least from the shelves of your local record store—for any extended period of time, inquiring minds start wondering why. Is it a record-industry smokescreen? Is it a self-imposed sabbatical for creative recharging? Is it personal demons on the warpath (you think of Miles Davis’ late-’70s “retirement”)?

For Laws, his rationale was of the healthiest, most life-affirming sort: he wanted to step off the treadmill and raise kids, Sky and Ashley, without the kind of absentee parenting that a musicians’ life might typically bring.

How did he come to embark on such an extended hiatus? “I never viewed it as a hiatus,” says the affable Laws. “It just happened circumstantially. After my children were born, I became very dedicated to taking care of them. That just took precedence. As a result, music got shoved into the background—until recently. The kids are older [ages 7 and 8], and much more independent now.”

My Time Will Come came along as Laws’ downstairs studio began pricking his creative conscience. He explains, “Little by little, I began to put parts down. I did the whole production myself, and it took a lot of time, mainly because I had to do it in between my other family obligations. I finally got it finished.”

Two years in the making, the finished project is a typically diverse brew that reflects aspects of Laws’ musical background. Swinging from innocuous pop-jazz confections to ambitious classical adaptation to the sinuous jazz piece, “Shades Of Light,” My Time Will Come tells the story of a versatile flutist who juggled jazz and classical idioms long before the name Marsalis monopolized the proverbial jazz marquee. This time out, Laws takes on “Malaguena” in a Chick Corea-esque arrangement by Don Sebesky, a supple jazz reading of Chopin’s “Valse” featuring bassist Gary Willis, and “Moonlight Sonata,” in Latin-ized form. It’s all part of all the puzzle for Laws, who once earned a Grammy nomination for his version of Stravinsky’s Rite Of Spring.

Such diversity can add up to another kind of puzzle for singleminded music marketeers. I raise the subject of Laws’ tendency to produce adventurous albums. “Why is this adventurous?” he asks rhetorically.

“Most of the records I’ve done have always been like that. It’s like, ‘How do we market this?’ When New Earth Sonatawas done for CBS Masterworks, they were saying the same thing, because ‘Amazing Grace’ and a Telemann suite and the ‘New Earth Sonata’ included some Latin and jazz elements. They’re dumbfounded. It does puzzle the marketing people in record companies.”

Covering many musical bases was always a natural inclination for the Houston native, born in 1939, who came to Los Angeles in 1958 with the Crusaders, then went to Juilliard, and hit big on the New York Latin and freelance scenes before starting a long, fruitful solo career.

“My mother was the pianist for the Baptist church choir,” he picks up the saga, “and she tells me that when I was age 6, I was getting up and picking out melodies. There was gospel music in the home. Also, across the street from us there was a honky-tonk, so I was able to hear rhythm & blues.

Laws played clarinet and sax in high school, but stumbled onto the flute by happenstance, when the band needed a flute soloist to play the featured part in Rossini’s William Tell Overture for a graduation ceremony. It was a critical turning point: Laws fell in love with both a new instrument and classical music.

Once at Juilliard, Laws found himself torn in terms of instrumental focus. He was playing flute and sax gigs by night—with such Latin artists as Willie Bobo and Mongo Santamaria—while getting a classical education by day.

Did he ever have second thoughts about the flute, a less-central jazz instrument than the sax? “No, I never did. As a matter of fact, I thought about getting away from the saxophone. Some flute players would tell me, ‘Well, the embouchure’s totally different. It will affect you flute playing.’ But I had to play saxophone when I was in school, in order to pay the rent. I was going to 8 a.m. classes and playing in gigs until 2 in the morning, playing saxophone and flute. It was a necessity.

“What I tried to do at that time was learn to play the guitar, because there was no conflict of embouchure. I tried hard, and I did learn to play it to the point where I had a much better concept of chord progressions and how chords are structured. I even played a few gigs. Eventually, flute just took over.”

His workload around New York was wildly varied, from jingles and Broadway shows to a long stint with the Metropolitan Opera orchestra and subbing work with the New York Philharmonic.

Laws points to these disparate elements when analyzing his own hybrid music sensibilities. “You’ve got the gospel, the rhythm & blues, the classical music, and with Mongo. All these elements come together. I always somehow include them. My writing is also influenced by those experiences.”

Signed by producer Joel Dorn, Laws started recording solo albums for Atlantic in the late ’60s, but was soon scooped up by Creed Taylor, then starting his influential indie label, CTI. The fateful call from Taylor came while Laws was enjoying life on a coveted gig, in the band for the David Frost show, led by pianist/educator Billy Taylor. Thus, it was that Laws took a flight to Memphis to record with Creed Taylor, got his walking papers from Billy Taylor, and became one of the first artists to tap into what became the highly influential and marketable CTI sound, predating the pop-jazz explosion of the ’80s.

“I thought, ‘Here’s my opportunity to go with a small company,’” Laws recalls. “It was the best thing that ever happened to my career—not money-wise, but for my career. When it came time for CBS and other big companies to swoop down on CTI artists, they offered a lot of money. That’s how I was able to build my studio downstairs and do a lot of other investments that I made.”

Over the course of Laws’ long solo career, many once-fledgling musicians have passed through the ranks, including Bob James, Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette, Lee Ritenour, Patrice Rushen, Ndugu, his brother Ronnie, even Pat Metheny. “There were a lot of players who have gone on. Makes me feel real old,” he laughs.

Does Laws sense, at this point, that he’s like a crusader (no pun intended), putting stylistic graftings into the broad public sphere that his name attracts?

“I guess I’m rebellious, in a sense. My high school teachers always told me I was an oddball. I protest the way man has taken the earth and placed geographical boundaries here and there, and made things very difficult. Nationalism is one of the deadliest diseases that plagues our society. It’s the reason for wars, contentions, all kinds of maladies in our lives.

“So it is with music. They try to compartmentalize music in this or that category. Subconsciously, maybe I’m trying to erase those boundaries. It’s not purposely that I do that. I feel comfortable when I go into a classical, jazz, or rhythm & blues setting. That’s been my existence. I like various musical idioms, and I try to reflect that when I do a recording.

“I don’t feel that I’m doing it as a personal crusade. It’s just that I’m reacting and acting according to what my background has been.”

In his liner notes to his new album, Laws explains, “At the conclusion of an interview with DownBeat magazine about ten years ago, the question was asked: ‘What is it that you would like to accomplish that you haven’t done before?’ The answer was: ‘I would love to have a son.’”

This DownBeat reporter can’t resist the temptation of repeating the same question at the conclusion of this interview.

Laws bursts out laughing. “That I haven’t accomplished? Well, now that I’ve got these beautiful children, maybe now, get about 50 million people to buy the record!”


Recensione su Musica Jazz di Agosto

Posted August 5, 2011 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized

Nel numero attualmente in edicola potete trovare la recensione del mio libro dedicato alle Origini del Flauto Traverso nella Musica Jazz.


Intervista su Jazzit di Giugno

Posted June 23, 2011 by flautojazz
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Nel numero di Maggio/Giugno di JAZZIT è stata pubblicata un’intervista al sottoscritto  riguardante il festival e soprattutto il progetto JAZZFRIENDS FOR EMERGENCY.


Sanremo 2011 e Raphael Gualazzi

Posted February 19, 2011 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized

Pur avendo votato e tifato “spudoratamente” per l’amica Serena Abrami, sono contento per l’altro conterraneo Raphael Gualazzi.

Ho avuto la fortuna di condividere il palco con Raphael un paio di anni fa in occasione di un “doppio concerto” organizzato dalla TAM  di Giambattista Tofoni presso lo splendido teatro Flora. Ecco un paio di “scraps” relativi al suddetto evento.

 floraraphael2 teatro flora1 teatro flora2

Calvino, il Jazz, la rete…

Posted February 3, 2011 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized

Ho scoperto per caso in Internet un saggio scritto dalla dottoressa Adriana Baldassi dal titolo “Jazz: a state of mind”. La cosa interessante è che vengo citato in questo articolo in virtù del progetto dedicato ad Italo Calvino che ho proposto qualche anno fa insieme all’Odd Times Quintet. Ecco alcuni estratti dal saggio (potete fare il download dell’intero articolo a questo LINK):

Italo Calvino’s main character in If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler behaves, throughout the whole story, just as Jazz seemed to have done during the past eleven decades: a traveler who is sometimes discreet, sometimes furtive, sometimes a celebrity, illegal, disrespectful of any convention, able to creep into the inspiration of almost any kind of artist as an inexhaustible source of dynamic energy. It should be underlined that Calvino’s story is divided into 12 chapters, just as many beats as are required in a Blues harmonic series.
Kristian Sensini, was the producer of a monographic show inspired by Italo Calvino’s book. The main topic was “When Jazz meets Literature.” Original songs were performed, each of them inspired by a different chapter of the Calvino masterpiece. Special attention was given to Ludmilla and all disguised female characters encountered in Calvino’s book with a Jazz song entitled Mille Anime (A Thousand Souls), lyric by Agnese Flagiello.

Kristian Sensini, an Italian jazz arranger and composer from Loreto, established in 2005 the Odd Times Quintet. The show has been performed in several theatres and Jazz festivals, together
with Stefano Bollani and Mirko Guerrini.
According to Kristian Sensini every single song is a white canvas to be painted with arrangement, improvisation and interaction of the musicians. Each song is performed in a very original and personal way, never forgetting the sense of humor and the sense of wonder, without which you can’t play good Jazz. It’s like a crosswise approach to music, with modern electric and acoustic sounds, still keeping the roots of Blues and Afro-American music, with the attitude of continuous renewal and variations on the theme: the melody works here as a reference point.

Mille Anime by Kristian Sensini: “Mille me/ Uno e mille me/ Si riflettono bianchi davanti a me/ Infiniti me/ Senza tempo in un limbo sospeso/ Mille me/ Mille anime/ Io le sento nascondersi dentro me/ In frantumi confusi lontani dal vivere/ Vagano/ Le mie ombre intrecciano/ Ricordi
sbiaditi, perduti/ Lampi di vertigine/ Mille me/ Uno e mille me/ Si riflettono stanchi davanti a me/ Infiniti me/ Nello specchio ad un filo sospeso/.”
A Thousand Souls by Kristian Sensini: “A thousand of me/ A thousand and one of me/ Are reflected white in front of me/ Countless me/ Without time suspended in a limbo// A thousand of me/ A thousand souls/ I feel them hiding inside me/ Smashed in disarray away from life//They wander/ My shadows intertwine/ Faded lost memories/Flashes of dizziness// A thousand of me/ A thousand and one of me// Are reflected tiredly in front of me/ Countless me/ In the mirror suspended//”
(translation by the writer).

“Le Origini del Flauto Jazz” Su Amazon

Posted January 24, 2011 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized


Da qualche giorno potete trovare presso AMAZON la più grande libreria online del mondo il mio libro dedicato al Flauto Jazz, cliccate sull’immagine per visionare dei samples ed acquistare il libro.


Flauto Jazz in conservatorio?

Posted January 17, 2011 by flautojazz
Categories: Uncategorized


Personalmente mi sono diplomato in Jazz con specializzazione proprio in Flauto Traverso.

Ma un corso specifico in effetti manca in Italia, ecco un breve articolo tratto da Musica Jazz di Dicembre.