Litchfield Jazz Festival 2012

Hubert Laws


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This footage featuring flutist Hubert Laws was filmed in Litchfield, CT at the 2012 Litchfield Jazz Festival.

Hubert Laws born in Houston, Texas on November 10, 1939 and is both a flutist and saxophonist with a career spanning over 40 years. He has performed in a wide array of music genres the foremost of which have been classical and jazz. Alongside Herbie Mann, Laws is probably the most recognized and respected jazz flutist.

Hubert grew up in the Studewood section of Houston, the second of eight and a number of his siblings also entered the music industry, including saxophonist Ronnie and vocalists Eloise, Debra and Johnnie Laws. He began playing flute in high school after volunteering to substitute for the school orchestra’s regular flutist. He became adept at jazz improvisation by playing in the Houston-area jazz group the Swingsters, which eventually evolved into the Modern Jazz Sextet, the Night Hawks, and The Crusaders. At age 15 he became a member of the early Jazz Crusaders while in Texas, yet continued to also play classical music at the time.

Winning a scholarship to New York’s Juilliard School of Music in 1960, he studied music both in the classroom and with master flutist Julius Baker, and played with both the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (member) and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, 1969-72. In this period his renditions of classical compositions by Gabriel Fauré, Stravinsky, Debussy, and Bach on the 1971 CTI recording Rite of Spring—with a string section and such jazz stalwarts as Airto Moreira, Jack DeJohnette, Bob James, and Ron Carter—earned him an audience of classical music aficionados. He would return to this genre in 1976 with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.

While at Juillard, Laws played flute during the evenings with several acts, including Mongo Santamaría, 1963–67 and in 1964 began recording as a bandleader for the Atlantic label, and he released the albums The Laws of Jazz, Flute By-Laws, and Laws Cause. He guested on albums by Ashford and Simpson, Chet Baker, and George Benson. He also recorded with younger brother Ronnie Laws album The Laws in the early 1970s. He also played flute on Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album Pieces of a Man, which featured the jazz poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. He can also be heard playing tenor saxophone on some records from the 1970’s.

In the 1990’s Laws resumed his career, playing on the 1991 Spirituals in Concert recording by opera singers Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman. His albums on the Music Masters label—”My Time Will Come” in 1990 and, more particularly, “Storm Then Calm” in 1994—are regarded by critics as a return to the form he exhibited on his early 1970s albums. He also recorded a tribute album to jazz pianist and pop-music vocalist Nat King Cole, “Hubert Laws Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole,” which received critical accolades.

*In June 2010, Laws received a lifetime achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts in the field of jazz.


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