Sometimes our familiarity with a musician revolves around one genre, but that association often limits our conception of the musician’s fuller artistry. On one hand, a listener can’t really be blamed for connecting a musician with a style; they’re simply making their judgement based off the past performances from albums and live shows. In reality though, the albums or performances that any one listeners experiences are only small snapshots of a musician’s greater personality. While a musician may choose to record primarily in one style of music, they usually have spent time in other genres throughout their careers. In addition, they spend time practicing, listening, and doing other gigs between each recording or performance, resulting in broad musical pieces coming together into their visible personality. This is especially true when dealing with Latin Jazz, a style that is built upon the combination of two genres; in most cases, Latin Jazz musicians already have experience in both jazz and Latin styles. When we do get to see a musician step outside a style where they’ve developed themselves, it’s always an interesting perspective that can be both enlightening and exciting. Flautist Andrea Brachfeld lets us take a look at another side of her musicianship on Lady of the Island, as she steps outside the comfort zone of Latin Jazz into the realm of hard bop.
A Connection To Hard Bop Through Original Compositions
Brachfeld and her group make a defined entry into the hard bop arena with several originals that display their connection to the style. Pianist Bill O’Connell riffs over an understated groove on the introduction to “Bebop Hanna,” leading a bluesy melody shared between Brachfeld and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon. Bouncing between a melodic fluidity and fits of angular rhythmic emphasis, Brachfeld crafts a witty solo that organically explores the inner and outer edges of the chord changes. Gordon playfully travels through the full range of his instrument with a collection of memorable melodic phrases, leading into a smartly constructed solo from O’Connell full of running melodic lines and long syncopated figures. An open minor mood immediately emanates from “Little Girl’s Song,” giving way to an introspective melody from Brachfeld. Bassist Andy Eulau tears through the waltz feel with a sense of melodic ingenuity until O’Connell steps into the spotlight with an improvisation that captures the spirit of the song with a firm command over the harmonic basis and a strong sense of thematic development. With the band charging into high gear, Brachfeld flies into a finely crafted solo that builds off of the open harmonic basis and the passionate response of the band, and after a return to the melody, she vamps over a bouncing improvisation from drummer Kim Plainfield. A ferocious riffs send Brachfeld and trumpet player Wallace Roney roaring into a driving melody over an uptempo swing feel on O’Connell’s “Dead Ahead.” Roney aggressively attacks the chord changes, breathing fire into a solo full of dexterity, musical knowledge, and a high level of technical skill. Brachfeld play off Roney’s final riff, stepping into her own stream of hard bop infused virtuosity, until O’Connell tears into an assertive solo keeping his insightful handle on melodic creation at the breakneck speed. There’s plenty of investment in jazz in both the performances and composition on these tracks, reveling a group of musicians with the experience and knowledge to walk confidently in this world.
Building Upon Tradition With Unique Arrangements
The group explores several standards that connect to swing and hard bop, putting personal spins on the music with unique arrangements. Brachfeld riffs over an Afro-Cuban 6/8 groove on Herbie Hancock’s “Eye Of The Hurricane” before she falls into the main melody with Gordon and alto saxophonist Todd Bashore. Drawing upon her experience in Latin music, Brachfeld tears into her solo’s rhythmic element before the band files into an uptempo swing while the flautist cuts loose with an inspired improvisational vigor. Gordon displays a great ability to explore all facets of a melody on his improvisation before Roney digs into a virtuosic solo with an unstoppable hard bop fire. O’Connell provides a beautifully crafted solo introduction on Duke Ellington’s “I Got It Bad,” laying the foundation for Brachfeld’s sensitive melodic interpretation. The lush and breathy sound of Brachfeld’s alto compliments the intimate duet setting beautifully, bringing a deep, rich sonority into play that reveals a different and attention grabbing side to her musicianship. O’Connell keeps an open ear throughout the track, balancing roles as an accompanist, soloist, and interactive commentator with a graceful finesse and unerring strength that allows Brachfeld to flourish. A powerful Cuban vamp opens Freddie Hubbard’s “Birdlike” with a bang before the rhythm section pushes four horn line-up of Brachfeld, Gordon, Bashore, and trumpet player Yasek Manzano into a driving swing feel for the melody. A stop break introduces Brachfeld’s solo, a strong statement that she fills with persistent bop lines, abrupt rhythmic ideas, and melodic invention. Gordon once again shows a distinct ability to bring an idea to fruition through repetition, development, and rhythmic intensity, while Bashore slides through the changes with a cutting tone and an ability to capture unique colors around the chords. These tracks show a connection to the tradition while making a distinct statement about their own backgrounds and individuality.
Keeping A Connection To Latin Music
Latin music certainly plays a strong role in Brachfeld’s musical personality, and she indulges that piece of herself on two tracks. The rhythm section establishes a graceful bossa nova foundation on Graham Nash’s “Lady Of The Island,” which serve as a gentle launching point for intwining melodic lines from Brachfeld’s alto flute and Manzano’s flugelhorn. Both wind players make reflective statements that play off the smooth background of the rhythm section and the colorful nature of the arrangement. The dynamic gradually grows in texture and momentum as Plainfield adds a bit of funk to the feel the song opens into a conversational exchange between Brachfeld and Manzano. Plainfield and conguero Chembo Corniel charge into a blazing rumba feel on “Four Corners” opening the way for a powerful rhythmic melody from Brachfeld and Manzano. As the rhythm section powers forward, Manzano adds into a bit of hard bop fire into his improvisation, until O’Connell brings the band’s dynamic down only to drive them back into a frenzy with an aggressive solo. Brachfeld engages Corniel and Plainfeld in an unaccompanied rhythmic exchange that soars into a commanding solo that displays her connection to the style. These tracks leave no doubt that Brachfeld can walk through both Latin and jazz worlds with confidence and skill.
A Strong Statement Built Upon Solid Musicianship
Lady of the Island is certainly a different album than we’ve heard from Brachfeld in the past, but her solid musicianship makes this hard bop recording a strong statement. The flautist swings with the same ferocity that she approaches clave, and her performance as both a player and composer reveal an easy comfort in both worlds. Brachfeld never leaves her connection to Latin music behind, it appears in arrangements and on a couple of tunes. The passion and dedication that she applies to hard bop shines consistently though, showing her committed connection to the music. Throughout the album, she really grabs the hard bop esthetic in her improvisations, outlining chords with a fluid skill, and manipulating the material into an aggressive string of notes. Brachfeld has smartly surrounded herself with musicians fluent and experienced in hard bop, adding an authentic edge to the recording. Gordon and Roney fill the tracks with hard bop fire that obviously inspire the other musicians and raise the bar quite high. O’Connell is a perfect partner to Brachfeld throughout the recording, acting as another musician with vast experience performing in both jazz and Latin music. Brachfeld makes a defined statement about the breadth and reach of her musicianship on Lady of the Island, showing us another side of her artistry that resonates with strength, beauty, skill, and personality.
1. Bebop Hanna – (Andrea Brachfeld)
2. Eye Of The Hurricane – (Herbie Hancock)
3. I Got It Bad – (Duke Ellington)
4. Little Girl’s Song – (Andrea Brachfeld)
5. Dead Ahead – (Bill O’Connell)
6. Birdlike – (Freddie Hubbard)
7. In The Center – (Andrea Brachfeld & Bill O’Connell)
8. Lady Of The Island – (Graham Nash)
9. Four Corners – (Andrea Brachfeld)
10. Retrospection – (José Negroni)
Andrea Brachfeld – flute (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9), alto flute (3, 8), vocals (8); Bob Quaranta – piano (4, 9), Fender Rhodes (8); Andy Eulau – bass (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Kim Plainfield – drums (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9); Todd Bayshore – alto sax (2, 6); Chembo Corniel – congas (2, 6, 8, 9), additional percussion (8); Wycliff Gordon – trombone (1, 2, 6); Yasek Manzano – trumpet (2, 6, 9), flugelhorn (8); Bill O’Connell – piano (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8); Wallace Roney – trumpet solo (2), trumpet (5)
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