Customer Reviews: Straight Life
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on December 15, 2000
Some jazz 'purists' love to bash this period in Freddie Hubbard's career. OK, its not his very finest... but are we going to consider everything after "Maiden Voyage", "Blues and the Abstract Truth" and assorted Art Blakey albums totally superfluous?? Well, perhaps the point could be made. Oh yeah, there's also some burning work with Dexter Gordon. But aesthetically, I take a different view... which is that the sessions for Red Clay and Straight Life, if not others, produced totally burning solo-work from Henderson, Hancock and Hubbard on most every track. I would further argue that Henderson was never least on modal material. I seriously doubt he ever displayed more ferocity, endurance, and creative genius than here (true, he may have on live occasions). Any tenor enthusiast or player who doesn't give a close listen here (and on Red Clay) is making a mistake. The only disappointment is perhaps the tepid rendering of the ballad, and that there aren't more tracks to the session.
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on February 24, 2006
This is one of the most hard hitting jazz albums I've ever heard. The band assembled for "Straight Life" pretty much explains why: Joe Henderson on sax, George Benson on guitar, Herbie Hancock on piano/keyboards, Ron Carter on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. (Weldon Irvine is even given credit for playing tambourine!) Almost everyone that plays on this album had recorded with Miles Davis at some time or another, and Freddie Hubbard ended up with a monster of an album in incorporating all that talent into one group. The seventeen minute title track is awesome; all the instrumentalists are in top form and turn in inspired solos. Joe Henderson in particular blew me away on this song. His solos are ridiculous here; I have some of his solo stuff and his playing on those discs doesn't compare to how he played on "Straight Life". George Benson also is a standout with his creative solo and occasional flurries of notes. Jack DeJohnette lays down a solid beat throughout. "Mr Clean" was written by Weldon Irvine (also worth checking out is Irvine's own version from the album "Liberated Brother", if you can find a copy) and continues the rapid fire soloing and mood of track one. Hubbard's playing throughout this song is fluid and fiery. "Here's That Rainy Day" slows things down but ends the album on a pleasant note. This was one of the first albums by Freddie Hubbard that I ever purchased and has remained one of my favorites. If you are a fan of jazz in any form I can't recommend this disc enough.
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on May 19, 2000
Hubbard turned out a raft of forgettable records on the long-defunct CTI label, but "Straight Life" was a fine effort, an all-star session with a Latin-y feel that found all concerned in fine form.
The title cut is a 17-minute jam. Hubbard exploits the upper register throughout much of his solo, and Joe Henderson on tenor delivers a blistering attack that is one of the high points of the album. George Benson's guitar simmers things down to a bluesy boil and Herbie Hancock works out effectively on the electric piano, finding a Latin groove with percussionist Patato Valdez and the great drummer Jack DeJohnette.
"Mr. Clean" is another straight-ahead attack that allows Freddie to show off his chops. Henderson again gets off on tenor, with a hammering, almost percussive solo.
The album's mood relaxes with the finale, the standard "Here's That Rainy Day." Hubbard has never exhibited, for me, a great touch with ballads, and he fails to find the romance of the tune here. Henderson, unfortunately, lays out. Given his superb work on the sessions two burners, I found myself missing his sound on the ballad, a form with which he has always been very comfortable. On the plus side, Benson contributes some very tasteful comping on guitar.
"Straight Life" finds Hubbard poised at the edge of an unfortunate foray into sessions sweetened with strings, and even worse, tepid funk- and disco-flavored dates. Surrounded by longtime buddies (some of whom would unfortunately follow his subesequent path), he showed that when properly inspired, he could still blow the roof off.
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on November 12, 2003
This is one of my favourite Freddie Hubbard albums. I enjoy listening to Straight Life even more than the famous Red Clay. The title track has been described as almost a "blow out" and I totally agree. Freddie takes turns with other greats such as George Benson at soloing and working around the central theme. Isn't this kind of thing what Jazz is all about? This album is thick with improvisation, spectacular tonality and energy. Strangely it remains relatively unknown in comparison to Red Clay, but when people hear it they tend to be very impressed. The title track alone is worth the asking price, but the remaining two tracks are brilliant in their own way. I'd recommend this to people who enjoy Jazz with a more improvised and live feel. The spontaneity may bring with it distortions and imperfections but it creates stunning moments that simply would never be achieved by more restrained playing.
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on April 3, 2006
Everyone has their own idea of what jazz is. I was 12 when I first heard Straight Life, Red Clay and Herbie Hancock's Crossings and I liked the way Hancock, Hubbard and their contemporaries opened things up harmonically, around 1969 or 1970. The Fender Rhodes was in, rigid chord changes and the straight-four cymbal chop were out. Sure, Miles and Trane (Tony Williams, too) were there first and most hungry jazz fans dug it; some older school folks couldn't stand the apparent lack of structure and minimal chordal blueprints.

But side one kicks the wind out of Miles Smiles or the groundbreaking but droney In A Silent Way. It's more focused and of superior intensity - if you can believe that. Side One is the title track, 18 minutes of dancing, crackling previously unheard jazz. Jack DeJohnette, in one of his best performances of hundreds of recordings, provides the hyperactive, unflagging chatty stimulus throughout. Ron Carter, wisely keeps the montuno ostinato bass line locked in with a delightfully plucky lilt as DeJohnette puts up a maelstrom of lively and challenging constant comment. It seems there's two guys playing inside DeJohnette at the same time. His hi-hat foot seems guided by a calm and measured yogi-like master while his hands are burning with youthful abandon and an almost Jerry Springer-like desire to create conflict - one of the more miraculous drum performances ever recorded.

Is it free jazz? Well, not exactly, it's got happy rhythm and Carter's melodic tonal ostinato that everyone cartwheels about at will. Is it Latin or swing? Not really, but it has elements of both. It's a one-off happening, peculiar to that short span in jazz history that defies categorizing and precedes the enervated horrors that would develop just 3 or 4 years later. Is it exciting? Absolutely, it's on fire and wild as hell. The head to Straight Life is a charming, simple tune that you won't want to get out of your head. Played with Hubbard's happy/sad rhythmic phrasing, it's a jazz hit of a melody. But it's just the start of a real adventure. Rudy Van Gelder's brilliant engineering captures the vivid timbre of Hancock's Fender-Rhodes; you can feel the wood and metal as he digs drivingly into the keys during his searching chromatic explorations and occasional small, bizarre inverted rhythmic compulsions.

There's moments of telepathic magic. The lyrical wind-down of Hancock's electric piano solo seamlessly bleeds into George Benson's clean and warm hollow-body - for a couple of seconds I can't tell if it's piano or guitar. The melody and timbre seem to be from one mind, one unbroken soulful phrase. Like the baton in a relay, Benson picks up his hand in motion and pours forth eminently singable and hard-swinging melodic inventions. Remarkably, throughout the 18 minutes Ron Carter's every single bass pluck is joyous, propulsive and purposeful. Joe Henderson's fat, mahogany tenor tone and soulful phrases you'll want to hear again and again, and you will be singing along after some time with this record. If there's any weak spots it's Hubbard's occasional lapses into his trademarked, time-marking horse-whineys, but fortunately the band more than compensates inventively during those spots.

Side two is slightly downhill from there (it couldn't possibly go up). Mr. Clean is a loping, funky mid-tempo rockish romp with a great, twisty head played masterfully by Henderson and Hubbard. It's satisfying enough, though rock isn't DeJohnette's strong suit. I've always thought his rock playing original enough, but oddly draggy. The song's composer, Weldon Irvine, adds tambourine here and kicks up the verve quotient a notch while the rest of the band keeps it hard enough for digging. Solid. The sparse closer, Here's That Rainy Day, is just a guitar and trumpet ballad, sans band. Pretty enough, but after the unbridled freedom and drive of the other tracks it seems tethered to the chords changes and out of place, almost "square." On the other hand, it's a gentle and forgettable runway landing. And after a wild and dangerous flight, maybe that's the best kind.

Revised 4/7/2011
John "Charles Ives" S.
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on March 6, 2014
I'm embarrassed to admit that I've been listening to jazz for close to 10 years and am only now discovering the CTI wealthspring. how that happened I have no idea, but thank god I did eventually discover it. the title track from straight life is among the best of the entire CTI catalog and is worth the MP3 purchase price alone. the other two cuts from this release are exemplary of Freddie Hubbard's standard of excellence, but they have a tough act to follow.
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on March 24, 2000
This album is equal parts fire and funk. The title cut alone is worth the price of admission. Featured are Hubbard on Trumpet and Flugelhorn (on Here's That Rainy Day), Joe Henderson on tenor, George Benson on electric guitar, Herbie Hancock on electric piano, Ron Carter on electric bass, Jack Dejohnette on drums, with Richie Landrum and Weldon Irvin rounding out the percussion section. Supported by this formidable collection of top shelf musicians, Hubbard's trumpet flies right from the opening salvo of the latin flavored funk of Staight Life, to the more groove oriented licks of Mr. Clean. The tender Here's That Rainy Day finds Hub playing a sublime Flugelhorn. The supporting musicians have plenty of room to solo, and they seem to grab the music and wring it for all it is worth. Joe Henderson's eruption of a solo on the title track is a high point. I recommend this cd to anyone who is into hard driving jazz/funk and solos that will burn up your speaker cones. This is a cd to put on, hit repeat, turn up, and let it tear you a new soul!
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on August 24, 2012
This is where fusion gets its feet! Every fusion fan knows "Bitches Brew" and "Emergency!" but not everyone may know this early fusion classic from 1970. It obviously draws on soul music and the nascent funk movement, but the overall feel is that of fusion - driving grooves, soulful riffs, afro-latin percussion and hard-bop soloing. Joe Henderson's Coltranesque sounds add heat to the already hot mix. Herbie Hancock contributes cool dissonant and abstract tones and George Benson adds darker colors and a distinctive rock feel.

If you can dig this, check out Donald Byrd's Electric Byrd and Bobby Hutcherson's San Francisco, from the same year. These are great but neglected albums, vilified by jazz purists but unnoticed by fusion fans. What a shame!
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on September 15, 2006
CTI Records' early 1970s catalogue is an embarrassment of riches, with nearly all the brightest lights of the preceding decade appearing repeatedly as leaders and/or sidemen on well-balanced albums which for the most part manage to be both artistic and accessible. Trumpeter Freddie Hubbard was one of the label's biggest stars, and this 1970 blowing session (his second CTI LP) serves as a fine case in point. Surrounded by fellow ex-Blue Note Wunderkinder (Herbie Hancock and Joe Henderson), Miles Davis rhythm section alumni (Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette) and the tasty picking of a young George Benson, Hubbard riffs through two extended original jams in characteristically titanic fashion, slowing down to display his matchless sensitivity on a light, lovely cover of "Here's That Rainy Day." All hands deliver a fine, funky performance, which is happily free of the hit-or-miss orchestrations which CTI employed on most of its releases at the time, including many of Hubbard's. Classic early fusion of a decidedly listenable variety, STRAIGHT LIFE is a great way for pop and rock fans to get themselves into jazz, and for jazz fans to remind themselves what it was that made them fall in love with the genre in the first place. Hot!
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on July 30, 2013
Freddie Hubbard is one of my favorite Albums from the CTI recordings. The rhythm section includes all my favorite musicians, Herbie Hancock, Jack De Johnette, Ron Carter, Joe Henderson and Pablo..............awesome players. I play drums and I relate to Jack De Johnette, I want to find everything Jack has recorded. A lot of people do not know how important this genre of music is to our history.
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