Never one to take lyricism for granted, trumpeter and composer Freddie Hubbard entered Creed Taylor's studio for the third time in 1971 with the express purpose of making a record radically different from anything he'd cut before; he was looking for it to use electricity and to be out of the soul-jazz mold, but was also more ambitious and wanted to push that envelope and himself. Taylor and Hubbard assembled a band that included Herbie Hancock on Rhodes, guitarists Eric Gale and George Benson, bassist Ron Carter, Jack DeJohnette on drums, Airto Moreira on percussion, and Richard Wyands on acoustic piano to back him. The band was also supported by the truly ethereal and adventurous string arrangements of Don Sebesky (a first for Hubbard). The result is a masterpiece of textured sound, gorgeously far-flung charts, sweet, tight grooves, a subtle mystic feel, and some of Hubbard's most exciting playing ever. The title track and Hubbard's ingenious read of Paul and Linda McCartney's "Uncle Albert/ Admiral Halsey," as well as Leonard Bernstein's "Lonely Town," are so in the pocket that they bleed soul. Benson's uncharacteristically edgy guitar playing juxtaposed against Hubbard's warm tone, and Hancock's beautifully modal Rhodes lines that are drenched with big, open, minor chord voicings, are simply made more illustrious and graceful by Sebesky's strings. While Red Clay and Straight Life are both fine albums, First Light is the one that connects on all levels -- and it did with the jazz-buying public as well. A masterpiece.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek