Hubert Laws and Savoy Jazz are two important names in the music's history, and Moondance
, Laws' new CD on the resurgent Savoy Label, reveals both as vital players in contemporary jazz as well. The album's ten tracks reflect both history and the present, some hearkening back to Laws' classic CTI recordings of the seventies while others, such as the title cut with its guest appearance from Chris Botti, appear to have an eye towards smooth jazz. Taken as a whole, the set illuminates the continuum that begins with the soulful jazz that Laws, Stanley Turrentine and others recorded for CTI and other labels back in the day through to the music being made under the contemporary and smooth jazz banners.
Laws' version of the Van Morrison classic that gives the collection its name kicks off the disc and provides its first single. Elements of the track work very nicely; Laws' flute beautifully translating Morrison's vocal line & Botti's trumpet providing a nice, subtle underpinning to the track. If Laws has commercial success with this piece it will be well-deserved, though I must confess that I have some reservations about the slickness of the rhythm track--the 'jazz' version of a 'rock' song really shouldn't swing less than the original, even if Van is something of a special case. Other name guests include Herbie Hancock who adds his signature piano work to "Nighttime Daydream" and Jeff Lorber.
To my ears, though, and no disrespect to any of the afore named luminaries, some of the albums most memorable moments come when Laws is featured alone with his core acoustic group of Ralph Penland on drums, John Leftwich on bass and pianist David Budway. Penland's playing is particularly refreshing, the human touch on the drums a nice counterpoint to the programmed rhythms. Budway's piano meets Laws' flute with near equal grace, playing particularly well on the set closing "Kiss." Laws plays well throughout, consistently engaged.Moondance
is a pleasant set of contemporary and smooth jazz tracks, sure to please anyone looking for that type of record. While I find the luminous acoustic tracks more satisfying on the whole, those featuring more syncopated electronic rhythms are very good for what they are. Hubert Laws is delightful to listen to from start to finish on this album.