Album Remarks & Appraisals:
All About Jazz - Jeff Dayton-Johnson
CTI Records reissued trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's November 1970 date, Straight Life, in 2011. As with some of the other reissues in this series (see John Kelman's in-depth discussion of some of the more important of these), its availability on compact disc has been spotty. Straight Life is a good - if not great - record, and it's good to have it back in circulation.
The album is pretty simple. Two numbers - the relatively fast title track and Weldon Irvine's slower-grooving "Mr. Clean" - are long modal-funk performances that provide opportunities for extended solos. A slightly incongruous flugelhorn/guitar duet on the standard "Here's That Rainy Day" closes the record.
A key attraction of Straight Life is the all-star band. Everyone on the record, at one point or another, manages an idiomatic blues-funk sound that is satisfying without being cloying; the opening notes of guitarist George Benson's solo on "Mr. Clean" provide a noteworthy example. Saxophonist Joe Henderson comes off as the most versatile contributor with two voluble, varied, and carefully conceived solos, one on each of the long cuts. Pianist Herbie Hancock is hampered by a dull-sounding electric keyboard, marimba-like with poor sustain. ... read more...
Down Beat (12/97, p.94) - 4 stars (out of 5) - "...a much-awaited jazz-funk foray...sounds as ferocious today as it did in 1970..."
Mojo (Publisher) (6/02, p.125) - "...A rigorous purveying of muscular 2-chord, hard-bop-to-light-fusion improvisations over frantic boogaloo beats..."
Personnel: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, flugelhorn); Joe Henderson (saxophone); Herbie Hancock (piano); George Benson (guitar); Ron Carter (bass); Jack DeJohnette (drums); Weldon Irvine (tambourine); Richie Landrum (percussion).
Producer: Creed Taylor.
Reissue producer: Didier C. Deutsch.
Recorded at the Van Gelder Studio, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey on November 16, 1970. Includes liner notes by Steve Futterman.
Digitally remastered by Tom Ruff (Sony Music Studios, New York, New York).
Personnel: Freddie Hubbard (trumpet, flugelhorn); George Benson (guitar); Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone); Herbie Hancock (piano); Jack DeJohnette (drums); Weldon Irvine (tambourine); Richie Landrum (percussion).
Recording information: Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ (11/16/1970).
Photographer: Chuch Stewart.
This is a remarkable and often overlooked album by one of the finest and most innovative trumpet players of the '60s and '70s. Steeped deeply in funk, Hubbard brings his bright tone and evocative, mercurial playing to the post-BITCHES BREW soundscape of electrified instruments, Latin percussion, complex polyrhythms, and "free" blowing focused on texture and atmosphere. STRAIGHT LIFE charts waters different from Davis' masterpiece, however. Whereas BITCHES BREW is a dark, ominous journey into a jungle of rhythm clusters and tonal coloring, Hubbard's work is sparer, cleaner, and characterized by catchy, almost pop-like themes.
STRAIGHT LIFE is much more than a mere groove-fest, though, as the top-notch players (including Joe Henderson, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, and a young George Benson on guitar) unfurl formidable chops and vibrant backing throughout. The first two tracks, Hubbard's title track and Weldon Irvine's "Mr. Clean," are lengthy, soulful workouts whose propulsive qualities and buoyancy are contrasted by the third track, the artist's delicate and gorgeous flugelhorn treatment of "Here's That Rainy Day." Taken together, the cuts on STRAIGHT LIFE are musically sophisticated, stirring, and eminently groovy, making this "soul-jazz" of the highest order.
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