1. Straight Life
2. Mr. Clean
3. Here's That Rainy Day
Freddie Hubbard - Trumpet, flugelhorn
George Benson - Guitar
Jack DeJohnette - Drums
Richie "Pablo" Ladrum - Percussion
Weldon Irvine - Tambourine
HerbieHancock - Piano
Joe Henderson - Tenor sax
Ron Carter - Bass
When the 1970's began, Freddie Hubbard had already established his reputation as a dazzling hard-bop trumpeter from the Clifford Brown school of blowing with a number of highly regarded Blue Note albums to his credit. Moving to CTI Records, Hubbard began a flirtation with jazz fusion, which was controversial at the time, but which resulted in a number of classic recordings including Straight Life.
This CTI Masterworks release which comes in at a meagre 36:10 minutes contains only the material from the original album. Leading off with a Hubbard original, the title-track portends what is to come as Hubbard and DeJohnette swap forays into the unfamiliar, before settling into a bluesy funky beat. Since this is the longest cut on the disc, all the participants get a chance to shine, with Joe Henderson on tenor taking a great turn showing off his musical resourcefulness. Herbie Hancock on piano and George Benson on guitar provide the backbone of the tune by setting out a groove that never wavers and keeps the whole track on fire.
Weldon Irvine was an iconic figure in the jazz-fusion world. He wrote one of those cultural touchstone compositions Young, Gifted and Black and contributed the next tune on the disc Mr. Clean. Led by Hancock's energetic electric piano, Hubbard takes the opportunity to transcend musical style and show his chops and passion, while the rhythm section provides unwavering support in a mellower fashion. The disc closes with the ballad Here's That Rainy Day which seems to be completely out of step with the other featured tunes. Hubbard is on flugelhorn on which he evokes a warmer sound, thereby offering a tender lyrical interpretation, made all the more so by the romantic support given by Benson's guitar and Ron Carter's bass.
While not as critically acclaimed as some of his other funk-fusion discs such as Red Clay, nevertheless Hubbard demonstrated that he had command of the genre and was a musical force that could not be ignored.