HUBERT LAWS — Afro-Classic (review)

HUBERT LAWS — Afro-Classic album cover Album · 1970 · Third Stream Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
dreadpirateroberts
‘Afro-Classic’ is very much in line with the variety a pop record often demands. Laws, joined by familiar players (who he would either use again or appear as guest on albums of their own) works their talents seamlessly into the material. Taking pop, classical and film scores as starting points, the album shows enough fire and enough restraint to be quite a satisfying listen, especially in its unashamedly ‘pop’ moments.

With a cool or at times almost dark tone, ‘Afro-Classic’ is more folk-sounding at times, thanks in part to the range of percussive sounds and guitar, but the album is also capable of going fairly straight classical, even if the vibes make for a surprising texture in the Allegro. ‘Theme from Love Story’ is sweet and Taylor’s ‘Fire and Rain’ is given the Laws light-funk-jazz treatment, and serves as a knockout opener, featuring an kind of psychedelic solo from the fuzz-vibe and an almost aggressive Laws solo.

The second Bach piece is half-traditional, half blues and half jazz. (Yes, three halves. The jazz and blues can share with the classical aspects.) It ranges across gentle bass notes, washes of cymbal and the tinkling of electric keys behind the rich tone of the bassoon and the (Spanish) guitar and flute, to a more bluesy rhythm, and shows how well Sebesky and Laws can blend the two styles, not just across a whole album, but in a single piece.

The Mozart Flute Sonata is pleasant enough but perhaps a touch forgettable, but for me the strength of the album rests on its longer pieces anyway. Easily one of the better Laws albums, perhaps it’s not essential unless you’re a fan, but it’s still great. In fact, the casual listener might want to start here if ‘In the Beginning’ isn’t handy. Often a delicate record, ‘Afro-Classic’ is very rewarding if you’re willing to sit back and let him do his work, and it does hold its share of surprising moments too.
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