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Hubert Laws: Moondance

The danger in nostalgia is that the present often pales in comparison. Throughout the late ’70s and into the ’80s, flutist Hubert Laws laid down some genuinely sweet smooth jazz with the likes of Antonio Carlos Jobim, Bob James and Najee, among others.

In that light, it’s especially painful to find him so clearly out of creative juice on this, his first recording on the Savoy label. It’s not that there’s anything spectacularly bad on Moondance. The haunting reading of Van Morrison’s title track (with trumpeter Chris Botti doing his best Tutu-era Miles), the Steely Dan-like “Bloodshot,” the faintly seductive air of “Stay With Me” and the fuzzy swing groove of “Stinky” do make for pleasant enough diversions.

The sense of disappointment has to do with the air of indolence and overall lack of inventiveness and commitment that emanate from the CD. The rhythms are almost universally restrained on the 10 tracks, so much so as to be nearly inconspicuous.

In an apparent attempt to be laid-back, Laws and company (other guests include Brian Culbertson, Jeff Lorber and Herbie Hancock) merely end up sounding languid. His solos hardly fare any better, traveling well-worn smooth-jazz paths. His best, most assured work comes on the aptly titled “Summer ’75,” which evokes some of his celebrated work with Creed Taylor’s CTI label during that decade.

There’s no disputing Laws’ chops, but this record seems tailor-made to serve as the soundtrack to a company picnic.

Originally Published