The Spotlight Series highlights upcoming Latin Jazz musicians that have yet to reach national recognition. Many of these musicians thrive in local scenes and some tour in support of releases. All these musicians contribute greatly to the overall Latin Jazz scene, and they deserve our “spotlighted” attention.
Into the World-A Musical Offering
We usually think of key figures when discussing any musical hotspot, but most musical scenes have hidden secrets that fuel their artistic integrity. Musicians that maintain regular gigs in the area often hold skills equal to the national figures, they simply play to a more local audience. They’ve often worked as sidemen to national figures, they may have toured internationally with these artists, and they maintain strong working relationships with these musicians. They hold years of musical history in their genre, but they’ve chosen to focus their energies on their local scene. Their recordings reach a variety of listeners, but the lucky fans that experience their music haven’t gained enough momentum to push them onto a national scene. The majority of listeners outside the scene may not recognize their name, but ask anyone on the scene, and these fans will speak volumes about their talents. An experienced veteran and hidden gem within New York’s active Latin Jazz scene, flautist Andrea Brachfeld delivers a strong set of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian jazz on Into the World-A Musical Offering, showing both an informed adherence to tradition and an experimental side.
Strong Connection To Afro-Cuban Jazz
Brachfeld builds a strong connection to traditional Afro-Cuban jazz on some songs, playing upon standard forms. Pianist Robert Quaranta establishes a catchy cha cha cha groove on “Cha Cha Blue” that is soon doubled by Brachfeld before she moves onto the main melody. After a unison band break, Brachfeld develops a solid statement that captures the song’s addictive groove with creatively interpreted traditional lines. Quaranta implies more dissonant harmonies on his improvisation before jumping back into the main montuno for an explosive solo from conguero Chembo Corniel. Quaranta and bassist Andy Eulau force syncopated chords against a funky songo rhythm on “Q” before Brachfeld introduces a more fluid melodic idea. A 6/8 interlude transitions into Quaranta’s flowing solo, full of lush colors that ride over the same feel. Brachfeld applies a more rhythmic approach to the 6/8 foundation, until the band returns to the songo for Corniel’s exciting statement. An unaccompanied improvisation from Corniel introduces “Mambo Yo,” leading into a melody that moves between several feels. The band falls into a driving cha cha cha for Quaranta’s solo, moving back to songo for Brachfeld’s energetic statement. The group continues to build momentum through the melody, driving towards a climatic statement by Corniel. A familiar bass line leads into a rich coro on “Descarga del Mundo,” as the rhythm section layers into a powerful groove. Brachfeld spins short flute licks between the coro until guest trumpeter Brian Lynch attacks his improvisation with syncopated rhythms, virtuosic technique, and an unstoppable forward motion. After a strong piano solo, drummer Diego López develops an exciting solo, leading into another driving series of ideas from Brachfeld. Each song plays upon a traditional Afro-Cuban approach, which Brachfeld executes with momentum, precision, and personality.
Mixing Several Stylistic Ideas
Brachfeld experiments with the mixture of several stylistic ideas on other pieces, exposing a unique perspective. As a rainstick adds dramatic effect, Brachfeld improvises short melodies on a kalimba, soon joined by voices and batá on “Passing Friends.” Brachfeld weaves flute ideas between the richly harmonized vocals before the band explodes into an intense 6/8 feel for another melodic statement. As Quaranta begins his improvisation, the rhythm section slides into a swing feel, allowing him freedom to drive sequences through dissonant implied harmonies. A slow and steady samba rhythm anchors the groove on “Voces Da Rua.” Brachfeld combines pieces of the melody with improvised ideas, provoking strong response from the rhythm section. After an intensive double time cha cha cha interlude, the rhythm section draws interesting ideas from Quaranta by mixing bits of samba, cha cha cha, and funk into a different foundation. Brachfeld inspires Native American imagery with an ocarina melody over a cha cha cha rhythm on “California Fog.” The group creates sonic space for Eulua’s solo, which he develops through understated melodicism and traditional rhythmic ideas. Brachfeld presents a more standard melody before moving into her improvisation that reveals the flute’s rhythmic potential in this setting. A fusionesqe cha cha cha groove sets the tone for “Karawak Dreams,” followed by Brachfeld’s spacious melody. In an exciting turn of events, the rhythm section bursts into a double time samba underneath Brachfeld’s improvisation, driving her to new heights. The group returns to the original feel for the melody, only to transition into a vamp for drummer Kim Plainfeld’s coloristic solo. These pieces show Brachfeld’s ability to experiment with different ideas while keeping a firm connection to traditional styles.
Stepping Outside Afro-Cuban Genres
Brachfeld steps outside purely Afro-Cuban genres on several tracks. An elegant melody travels over violins, a bowed bass, and a firm rhythmic foundation on “Danzón For Richard,” before band hits drive the rhythm section into a medium tempo swing. Putting the swing feel to good use, Quaranta builds an intriguing statement that combines syncopated figures, quick lines, and a distinctly modern jazz tinge. Brachfeld spins virtuosic phrases and strong rhythmic ideas through the swing feel, before the band makes a sudden jump back to danzón to revisit the melody. Plainfield plays a slow and funky drumbeat beneath Brachfeld’s sly and bluesy melody on “The Memory of You.” As pianist Mike Longo slides into his improvisation, the foundation smoothly transitions into a swing feel, providing the perfect background for Longo’s sensitive phrasing. Brachfeld immediately digs into the swing feel, creating interesting rhythmic ideas and fast runs. The rhythm section provides an up-tempo samba groove underneath Brachfeld’s sustained melody on “Desperado,” which includes an interesting switch to 6/8. The samba rhythm returns as Quaranta constructs a flowing statement that builds tension with repeated phrases. Brachfeld utilizes the end of Quaranta’s improvisation as the inspiration for her statement, twisting the original idea through a series of variations. As the rhythm section provides a subdued ballad, Brachfeld applies her shimmering vibrato and sensitive dynamic range to shape a touching melody on “Song for Jenny.” Longo displays a restrained yet bluesy touch on his statement, using space, texture, and dynamics to develop his idea. The deep tone of Brachfeld’s alto flute adds a rich color to her thoughtful performance, providing insight into her broad emotional range. Each of these tracks reflects a different side of Brachfeld, showing the depth of her artistry.
Strong and Inspired Release
Brachfeld reveals the rich artistic background that has long inspired New York listeners on Into the World-A Musical Offering. Brachfeld’s experience in the Latin music world fuels each track, maintaining a constant connection to traditional aesthetics. Her knowledge of Afro-Cuban and Brazilian genres becomes apparent through firm structures and traditional rhythmic phrases integrated into solos. At the same time, Brachfeld experiments with larger compositional ideas, inspired by her own creative foundation. This requires her to stretch traditional aesthetics, mix styles, and explore other genres. Brachfeld makes these moves with ease; her compositions arise as complete statements and her stylistic combinations respectfully reflect history. She works with a skilled group of musicians that support her ideas, share her stylistic aesthetics, and add their creative artistry into the mix. Their professional performances bring her ideas to life and contribute a fine polish to the overall sound. The musicians and listeners on New York’s Latin music scene should feel fortunate to have Brachfeld as an active member of their community; after hearing Into the World-A Musical Offering, the rest of the world will feel lucky to get a good glimpse of New York’s hidden gem.