(UPDATE, 6/14/09, 11:00 p.m.: The Ronnie Laws concert at the Sheldon has been canceled. See this post for more information.)
The Houston, Texas native is from a musical family, and his siblings include the fine jazz flute player Hubert Laws. His first break was as part of an early edition of Earth Wind and Fire, appearing on their album Last Days and Time, but he didn't gain significant national attention until 1976, when he issued Pressure Sensitive, his debut album on Blue Note. It featured the song "Always There," which became something of a jazz/funk standard and incorporated what surely is one of the most insidiously catchy uses of the flexitone in jazz or pop history.
Playing tenor and soprano sax and occasionally singing, Laws has demonstrated both versatility and staying power over the ensuing three decades. Recently, he's been performing in the group 3BT with fellow tenor men Wilton Felder (formerly of the Crusaders) and Gary Davis, and he also has a new solo CD, Voices in the Water.
First up today is a version of Laws' most famous song, "Always There," from a 2003 show at the Coronado Ballroom in San Antonio. The backing band includes Mark Harper (guitar), Gary Gillespie (keyboards), Frederick Nichelson (bass), John Anthony Martinez (drums), Roger "Rock" Franklin (percussion).
Down below, there's a rendition of the tune "Old Days, Old Ways" from the same gig; a brief biographical clip in which Laws plays a bit of soprano sax and talks about his background and career; and, especially for the sax players out there, a short video featuring Laws discussing his tenor saxes and the qualities he looks for in his horns.