everybodydigs#129 Freddie Hubbard – Straight Life

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

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.

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).

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#125 Roy Ayers – Ubiquity

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Roy Ayers’ leap to the Polydor label inaugurates his music’s evolution away from the more traditional jazz of his earlier Atlantic LPs toward the infectious, funk-inspired fusion that still divides critics and fans even decades after the fact. Although Ubiquity maintains one foot in Ayers’ hard bop origins, the record favors soulful grooves and sun-kissed textures that flirt openly and unapologetically with commercial tastes. Several cuts feature the male/female vocals that would become a hallmark of subsequent Ubiquity efforts, while mid-tempo instrumentals like “Pretty Brown Skin” and “The Painted Desert” feature evocatively cinematic arrangements and intriguing solos that unfurl like psychedelic freak flags. The crack supporting cast including bassist John Williams, keyboardist Harry Whitaker, and drummer Alphonso Mouzon proves equally effective on high-energy numbers like “Can You Dig It” and the Nat Adderley-penned “Hummin’ in the Sun,” which point the way to the mind-expanding funk Ayers would perfect across the sessions to follow. An outstanding record. (allmusic)

Rappamelo’s favorite track:

everybodydigs#104 Weather Report – Heavy Weather

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everybodydigs# is a series of posts about Jazz, Funk, Soul & R’n’b albums released from the 20s to the 90s, you can read a brief description/review and listen to a small preview (when it’s possible). everybodydigs# is like when someone tells you “hey you should listen to this album!” and nothing less, enjoy!

Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter didn’t truly fulfill Weather Report’s artistic and commercial potential until they brought on-board a bassist who could function as an equal partner in the musical equation, like co-founder Miroslav Vitous, whose main shortcoming was his inability to play funk. In renegade bassist Jaco Pastorius, the band found a formidable composer and improvisor, who possessed deep roots in funk and R&B, yet was equally at home in modern jazz and Afro-Cuban settings. Not coincidentally, the presence of this innovative fretless bassist on Heavy Weather gave Weather Report the rhythmic/melodic dimension it had been missing since Vitous’s departure, as evidenced by his voice-like declamations on Zawinul’s ballad “A Remark You Made.” On Zawinul’s chart-topping, big band-styled arrangement of “Birdland,” Pastorius provided the kind of big, sweeping orchestral gestures the tune required, while on the shifting canvas of Wayne Shorter’s “Harlequin,” the bassist’s ability to articulate complex chords allowed him to function as a string section unto himself. And on his own “Havona,” Pastorius not only soloed with horn-like artistry, but combined with drummer Alex Acuna and percussionist Manolo Badrena to give Weather Report its funkiest rhythm section ever. –Chip Stern

Rappamelo’s favorite track: