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Shrdlu

Gary McFarland "Today"

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I recently posted a brief recommendation about this one in the Reissues section, but this is the place for it.

The new Japanese CD of this arrived about 10 days ago, and it has really grabbed me. This album is absolutely haunting! I don't often play a CD over and over, especially in these times of a surplus of reissues, but "Today" really stands out.

The album is chock full of gems.

The star, for me, is the (acoustic) guitar of Sam Brown, of whom I've heard very little. The engineer caught his sound superbly on this album. Sam out-Spanishes the Spanish themselves. Up there, too, is Hubert Laws, who reminds us that he is one of the very top flutists. (Here, he is heard on alto flute and piccolo, as well as the regular model.)

The whole group gets into a terrific groove on many tracks - especially in some tags at the ends of selections. The rhythm is Brasilian mainly, and you won't hear a smoother combination of percussion, guitar and bass. It sure helps to have Ron Carter and Grady Tate on board! On one track, Ron treats us to a sustained spell with the low D on his extended bass.

Gary's arrangements are wonderful, and though he isn't a singer in the operatic category, his voice is actually quite pleasant, I think; his intonation is very good. There's also a reasonable amount of his vibes work to be heard.

The selection of songs is very good, too.

A couple of things I would change: I would lose the cello, and I would have had Curtis Fuller play without a mute, in the manner of Jimmy Cleveland and Urbie Green on the Jobim sessions. And I don't like "Suzanne", with its silly lyrics, though the background is nice. One bad track out of 12 isn't doing too badly.

Give this one a spin. The CD is taken from a less than VG+ LP, but the remastering is great, and one can ignore the occasional sonic flaw in the vinyl. Or, get a used LP.

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There's something about Hubert Laws that makes me think I don't like the flute. Then I hear someone like Harold Land play.

What do you like about Hubert Laws, Shrd?

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I'm on a case-by-case basis with Laws myself, but when he connects, he does so strongly. Impeccable technique always, but only sometimes does he bring the music with it. But he can (or could, anyway), no doubt...

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I agree. I think his playing is very clear. I just feel like he is always playing whenever I see his name on an album. The most recent example for me that comes to mind is Roy Ayers Stoned Soul Picnic. I think I could like this album a lot more if Hubert Laws wasn't ALWAYS playing!

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Ah, I see. Check him out w/Mongo.

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MY goodness, this sounds almost like Wes Montgomery's Tequila, even sharing the same bass & drum players.

As far as Hubert Laws goes, the only albums of him that I've heard are on Milt Jackson's Goodbye and his own In the Beginning. I really enjoy the Jackson, but ITB is on a whole 'nother plane; probably in the same stratosphere of emotion that the present McFarland album does for Brother Shrdlu. I need to seek this out!

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Well, Hubert does not dominate this album. There are some short solos, but it's mainly ensemble work, so it could be anybody, really. The solos really dig in, and make you think "Yeah!".

I have never heard a massive amount of Laws, but I remember when he first appeared on albums, in the late 60s, and I have always liked his sound and ideas. This is a real, specialist flutist, not just a tenor player who plays it because everybody is doing it and he can't avoid it. (Though a lot of those are very good, too.) I don't recall many album names from back then, but there was a "Flute By Laws" album, and he was on some CTI albums, as well as Quincy Jones' masterpiece "Walking In Space", I think. Also, he is good on the Chick Corea double album "Inner Space" - you need the Japanese version of that one to get good sound.

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MY goodness, this sounds almost like Wes Montgomery's Tequila, even sharing the same bass & drum players.

That prompted me to give that album a spin again. Great stuff, but it isn't anything like the McFarland session. It's interesting to consider how different two sessions, with the same or similar personnel, can turn out to be.

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MY goodness, this sounds almost like Wes Montgomery's Tequila, even sharing the same bass & drum players.

As far as Hubert Laws goes, the only albums of him that I've heard are on Milt Jackson's Goodbye and his own In the Beginning. I really enjoy the Jackson, but ITB is on a whole 'nother plane; probably in the same stratosphere of emotion that the present McFarland album does for Brother Shrdlu. I need to seek this out!

I have ITB and it definitely works for me.

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Well, this is too good to be so little known, Chris. It's sad that it probably won't be reissued outside Japan. The tapes are apparently lost. That would explain why DCC put out CDs of Gary's other two Skye albums but not this one.

I must check out those two Jacksons. You can't go wrong with Milt, in any case.

I missed most of the CTIs the first time around because there was so much from earlier years to catch up with.

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MY goodness, this sounds almost like Wes Montgomery's Tequila, even sharing the same bass & drum players.

That prompted me to give that album a spin again. Great stuff, but it isn't anything like the McFarland session. It's interesting to consider how different two sessions, with the same or similar personnel, can turn out to be.

Interestingly, AMG only gives the McFarland session only two stars. Ah well, whatta they know? ;)

BTW, I'm pretty sure the Laws & Jackson CTIs are still in print. I’m tellin’ ya, if you think at all positively about Laws, ITB will move you like nothing else. His arrangement of “Gymnopedie” is worth the price of admission alone. Don’t listen to it without a box o’ Kleenex next to you. :wub:

Edited by Big Al

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Will get to that asap, Al. Thanks.

The AMG guide, which I find very useful, very often, doesn't like McFarland much. In any case, their reviews are generally worthless, I think.

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The star, for me, is the (acoustic) guitar of Sam Brown, of whom I've heard very little. The engineer caught his sound superbly on this album. Sam out-Spanishes the Spanish themselves.

Sam Brown also plays some memorable guitar on Charlie Haden's Liberation Music Orchestra (Impulse!, 1969) and Keith Jarrett's Treasure Island (Impulse!, 1974).

Edited by alankin

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Thanks. He is definitely on my "want to hear more" list.

He was good on the Bill Evans album ("From Left To Right") but not really featured on that; his work there didn't grab me like his playing on the McFarland LP.

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Half of the tracks on this album sound like outtakes from the 1964 Soft Samba album.  

The rest are in a now sound vibe.

A great album, assuming you like Gary's aesthetic from this era.

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I hear sad life and happy death in equal measure 

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That's why he had such a deep feeling for Bossa Nova.

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Exactly.

It's also why I look but don't touch his music. I try for less duality and more unity.

It is what it is, death and life, both are happy and both are sad. It's really all the same, it just depends on where you are when you're looking at it.

 

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44 minutes ago, Late said:

Kristian St. Clair's documentary is very much worth watching. Especially recommended for listeners who are already fans.

This Is Gary McFarland

We premiered this locally at the time of release.  It probably leaves more questions than answers, especially in light of his death.

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