A new Jazz Flute Ensemble gave its first performance in the New York/New Jersey area this week.
Flutes and the Abstract Truth appeared at: Trumpets Jazz Club & Restaurant, Montclair, New Jersey
Formed by Jessica Valiente and Andrea Brachfeld, the group follows the form of the smaller jazz flute ensemble — four flutes plus rhythm section — that is emerging in various parts of the world. Along with Jessica and Andrea, Flutes and the Abstract Truth features flutists Anton Denner and Mark Friedman, with pianist Steve Myerson, Rick Faulkner, bass and Diego Lopez, drums.
“Performing on the full range of sizes of the flute family, the ensemble presents skillfully-crafted arrangements and innovative interpretations of standards, traditional music, and original compositions. The four featured flutists are a who’s-who of flute virtuosi in the Garden State, with glowing credentials from the worlds of jazz, Latin, Brazilian music, classical, theater, and commercial music.”
Paul Dorsey was at Trumpets and filed the following review.
And now for something completely different…
I had the pleasure of hearing the debut of Flutes and the Abstract Truth ensemble at Trumpets Jazz Club on Montclair NJ, June 6, 2017. The group’s name is a tribute to the wonderful Oliver Nelson 1961 album Blues and the Abstract Truth. It is certainly not a standard jazz ensemble, however, it was an exciting outing for me and my family.
The sound was tight, exciting and very different from what you normally hear. They used alto and bass flutes along with the better known C flutes to add richness to the sound and an additional octave to the range of the soloists. Most unexpected was that there very few pitch problems which can be a challenge with multiple flutes.
Each of the four flutists had a very different solo style. That helped to keep the sound interesting. Mark Friedman pushed the envelope further than any of the others. He took lots of chances harmonically and thus delivered the most interesting musical passages of the four. Jessica Valiente had the most lyrical solos. On the bass flute she served up a [baritone saxophonist] Gerry Mulligan style of solo that was really nice to hear. Andrea Brachfeld seemed to most embody what I would expect from a classical/jazz fusion artist with lots of flourishes and technical brilliance. Anton Denner seemed to stay closest to the traditional jazz idiom; I think his solos would have sounded at home on a saxophone.
The written-out ensemble playing was very well done, with interesting harmonies and good phrasing. I would like to specifically mention Rick Faulkner’s arrangement of Stolen Moments in the first set as an exceptional example of this. The sonorities in the close of the piece were wonderful and were performed beautifully by the group.
I would have liked to see the group gravitate towards more latin jazz with the traditional tight flute running passages rather than standard big band kinds of ensemble work. There were places where I felt like the “big band” sections in the compositions would have been better if performed with an actual big band (for example in Meet You at the Coda). Flutes certainly belong as part of a big band sound but some accommodation in the music writing needs to be made if the entire big band is made up solely of flutes.
The rhythm section provided a great foundation for the flutes. They followed wonderfully, stayed in character with the rest of the group and helped to provide different textures than the flutes.
Rick Faulkner did a great job on bass. He didn’t get in the way, was always right where he needed to be, and integrated well into the ensemble. I had to wait until the fourth piece for him to get a solo, and it was worth the wait. Bass solos are rarely appreciated, but it pays to let the skills of an exceptional player stand out from time to time.
Diego Lopez on drums made some interesting choices. He seemed to stay with the higher pitched pieces in the kit to match the flutes. He continued those choices even in the solos. I appreciated the different sort of sound coming from the drums. His ability to blend with the flutes and then to take command in his own solos was nicely done.
Steve Myerson was on acoustic piano for the entire performance. The warm sound of a real piano fit in well with the group. His solos were always solid and some of them were amazing. The drama in his Hut Song solo was exceptional.
This is a new group with very little time together as an ensemble. But they still worked well together. All in all, this was certainly not a pick-up jam session but neither was it the sound you would get from people that have played together for years. I hope they continue to work together and perform. If this is how they sound in their first outing, I will impatiently await their next one.
* * * * * *
Paul Dorsey is a New York-based technical writer and keen amateur performer on French horn and recorder. He is very involved in the Early Music scene. His 11-year-old son is studying flute and is part of the jazz and world music ensemble run by Rick Faulkner.
Jessica Valiente provided the following information about the selections performed.
Dance of the Reed Flutes (from The Nutcracker; composer: P.I. Tchaikovsky, arr. Rick Faulkner) (samba and guaguanco)
Stolen Moments (comp. Oliver Nelson, arr. Rick Faulkner) (straight ahead)
Hut Song (Traditional Hut song from Africa, arr. Bill O’Connell) (African 12/8)
N(N+1)/2 (comp. Jessica Valiente, arr. Rick Faulkner) (straight ahead — this is a rhythm changes tune, very traditional swing)
Almendra (comp. Abelardo Valdez, arr. Andrea Brachfeld) (danzon Cubano)
Meet You at the Coda (comp. Dave Valentin; Arr. Bill O’Connell) (straight ahead, Latin at the end)
Fly with the Wind (comp. McCoy Tyner, arr. A. J. Johnson) (straight 1/8’s)
Tuku (comp/arr. Rick Faulkner) (Zimbabwean 12/8)
Fool Me Twice (comp. Jessica Valiente, arr. Rick Faulkner) (Cuban 6/8)
Transition (comp. John Coltrane, arr. Bill O’Connell) (straight ahead)
I Remember You (comp. John Coltrane, arr. Bill O’Connell) (straight ahead ballad)
Awijee (comp/arr. Rick Faulkner) (straight ahead — this is a virtuosic bop head over the changes for Sweet Georgia Brown)
Comments are closed.