As reported at Flute Journal, there is a growing interest in Jazz Flute Ensembles of various sizes, with Jazz Flute Big Bands in the UK and Canada, as well as in Japan, and smaller – 4 to 6 flutes – ensembles in the UK and New York, it is a pleasure to report on the existence of another jazz flute ensemble, Four Colors, functioning in Tokyo and to review their recording. It is 10 years old now but still available and definitely worth hearing.
Four Colors represents the coming together of four of Japan’s leading jazz flutists. American flutist and saxophonist Steve Sacks spent 20 years on the New York music scene before moving to Tokyo in 1999. There, in 2005, he joined forces with Rie Akagi, Shinpei Inoue and Yuka Kido to form Four Colors. In 2007 they recorded their first CD.
With a variety of standards and originals by members of the group, arrangements primarily by Sacks and Akagi, and strong soloing all around, there is nothing dated about this recording. Opening with Herbie Mann‘s Memphis Underground (1) and progressing through Smoke Gets in Your Eyes (2) and When You Wish Upon A Star (5) , and the John Lewis/Dizzie Gillespie classic Two Bass Hit (6) — scored for two bass flutes! — by way of Inoue‘s funky Hudson Parkway (3), Akagi‘s moody interlude European Wind (7), Sacks’ ballad Starting Over (10) and two originals by Yuka Kido, a lively and melodic Bossa Nova Prá Frente (9) with Taroma Koshida’s acoustic guitar, and Miltoniana (11) a flutes-only tone poem which makes for a surprisingly bold ending for the set. In between there is a sensitive reading of the less well-known Ralph McDonald/William Salter standard Smoke Rings & Wine (4) and an intriguing arrangement of Bedřich Smetana‘s The Moldau (8) from Má vlast (My Homeland) which pairs up nicely with Rick Faulkner‘s Dance of The Reed Pipes arrangement of Tchaikovsky‘s Sugar Plum Fairy.
The Moldau morphs into an up tempo jazz waltz with lively solos from Akagi‘s flute, pianist Masaru Okuyama and bassist Chris Silverstein before an abstract interlude leads back to Smetana‘s theme and finally to the jazz waltz. It is typical of the creativity and variety displayed by Four Colors. For arrangers, injecting a variety of colors into an ensemble of flutes, even when distributed among concert flutes, alto flutes, bass flutes, is quite a difficult task. This ensemble, their arrangers and soloists, has managed it exceptionally well — there are far more than four colors here regardless of the group’s name.
Steve Sacks informs me that, between them, they have enough material for 2 or 3 more CDs. I do hope they get on with it soon!
Review by Peter Westbrook
Meanwhile, this CD can be purchased at iTunes.
A comment from Jamie Baum:
“All the beauty the flute has to offer…multiplied by four! Great playing, beautiful sound, perfect intonation and swinging arrangements add up to a flute-lover’s must -have CD.” Jamie Baum (internationally known jazz flutist, composer, instructor at Manhattan School of Music)
Rie Akagi (flute & alto flute) (solos 4, 8)
Shinpei Inoue (flute, alto & bass flutes) (solos 2, 3, 6)
Yuka Kido (flute & alto flute) (solos 1, 9)
Steve Sacks (flute, alto & bass flutes) (solos 1, 2, 6)
Masaki Hayashi (1, 3, 10)
Masaru Okuyama (2, 5, 6)
Chizuko Yoshihiro (4)
Masahiro Itami (1, 3, 4, 10)
Taroma Koshida (9)
Gregg Lee (1, 3, 4, 10)
Chris Silverstein (2, 6,8,9)
Setsu Fujii (2, 6, 8)
Tappy Iwase (1, 3, 4, 10)
Yoichi Okabe (1, 3, 4, 8 10)
Produced by Four Colors
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