This is an album that you simply do not hear enough about in the world of post-1970 jazz. Originally recording in November of 1970, it's got a very unique sound, while still cuing up memories of other recordings. It's also got an amazing lineup, and 3 top-notch tunes.
If you have a fairly decent knowledge of jazz history, several of these names should ring a bell, and hopefully jog your curiousity. For those of you less initiated in the jazz world, Hubbard, Henderson, Benson, Hancock, Carter, and DeJohnette are all master musicians, who in addition to being some of the best, have recorded with many of the very best. Herbie Hancock, Jack DeJohnette and Ron Carter are all graduates of Miles Davis' band (a huge resume item), and Henderson and Benson are both excellent playesr who have enjoyed success elsewhere, and on this album.
1. Straight Life - This starts the album off, and concludes the first side at the same time. It also defines the sound of the band. If you've heard the album "Bitches Brew" by Miles Davis, you know DeJohnette's style. Very expressive and loose. The rest of the rhythm section goes this way as well. What's interesting, though, and what sets it apart from "Bitches Brew" is the bombastic melody parts. The heads are basically hard-bop styled on top of fusion rhythm sections. Unlike the dark Miles record, it's upbeat and melodic, but not overly poppy or cheesey like some fusion. On this tune, everyone but Carter gets a nice beefy solo(s), and the improvisation is quite a treat. When you get great improvisors like you have on this record, and wonderful rhythm section like Carter, Benson, Hancock, and DeJohnette, the improvisations can go on for 17 and a half minutes and engage you the whole way through.
2. Mr. Clean - A very similar long jam to the first. A nice hard-boppish head over a fusion rhythm section. Wonderful solos from all.
3. Here's That Rainy Day - This one shows why Hubbard is the bandleader (if the others have not secured that in your mind already). His meloncholic flugelhorn on this tune is haunting and beautiful, and a great contrast to the last two selections. The rhythm section is sparse but suggestive, and George Benson's guitar especially adds a lot to the mix. As I've said, the focus is Freddie's horn, though.
Fans of hard bop who are looking to get into fusion, fusion fans in general, fans of "Bitches Brew" by Miles Davis specifically, trumpet players.