Hubert Laws, Jr. was born November 10, 1939, in the Studewood section of Houston, Texas, the second of eight children to Hubert Laws, Sr. and Miola Luverta Donahue. Many of his siblings also entered the music industry, including saxophonist Ronnie and vocalists Eloise, Debra and Johnnie Laws.
He began playing flute in high school after volunteering to substitute for the school orchestra’s regular flutist. He became adept at jazz improvisation by playing in the Houston-area jazz group the Swingsters, which eventually evolved into the Modern Jazz Sextet, the Night Hawks, and The Crusaders.
At age 15, he was a member of the early Jazz Crusaders while in Texas (1954–60), and also played classical music during those years.
Winning a scholarship to New York’s Juilliard School of Music in 1960, he studied music both in the classroom and with master flutist Julius Baker, and played with both the New York Metropolitan Opera Orchestra (member) and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, 1969–72.
In this period his renditions of classical compositions by Gabriel Fauré, Stravinsky, Debussy, and Bach on the 1971 CTI recording Rite of Spring—with a string section and such jazz stalwarts as Airto Moreira, Jack DeJohnette, Bob James, and Ron Carter—earned him an audience of classical music aficionados. He would return to this genre in 1976 with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.
While at Juilliard, Laws played flute during the evenings with several acts, including Mongo Santamaría, 1963–67 and in 1964 began recording as a bandleader for Atlantic, and he released the albums The Laws of Jazz, Flute By-Laws, and Laws Cause. He appeared on albums by Ashford & Simpson, Chet Baker, George Benson, and Moondog. He recorded with his younger brother Ronnie on the album The Laws in the early 1970s. He played flute on Gil Scott-Heron’s 1971 album Pieces of a Man, which featured the jazz poem “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. During the 1970s he was a member of the New York Jazz Quartet. He can also be heard playing tenor saxophone on some records from the 1970s.
In the 1990s Laws resumed his career, playing on the 1991 Spirituals in Concert recording by opera singers Kathleen Battle and Jessye Norman. His albums on the Music Masters Jazz label—My Time Will Come in 1990 and, more particularly, Storm Then Calm in 1994—are regarded by critics as a return to the form he exhibited on his early 1970s albums. He also recorded a tribute album to jazz pianist and pop-music vocalist Nat King Cole, Hubert Laws Remembers the Unforgettable Nat King Cole, which received critical accolades.
Among the many artists he has played and recorded with are :
J. J. Johnson
In 1998, Laws recorded with Morcheeba for the Red Hot Organization’s compilation album Red Hot + Rhapsody, a tribute to George Gershwin, which raised money for various charities devoted to increasing AIDS awareness and fighting the disease.
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