This is a fascinating jazz recital – once again – from Lori Bell, including Tamir Hendelman again, as well as the supremely talented bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek. It is cunningly programmed, with Charles Mingus’ Nostalgia in Times Square and Thelonious Monk’s 52nd Street Theme placed up front so as to give maximum impact to its quiet tremolo-infused lead character at the opening: Lori Bell’s flute, that pulls you into a distinctly unnerving world, one which the entry of that flute, with its vague, long-limbed lines, does nothing to ameliorate. It’s all the more mind-blowing when you realise that the Mingus and Monk pieces, these visionary, transcendent pieces are particularly well suited to Ms Bell’s tensile, wiry sound, which leads her lends her lines an immediacy and intensity that you also find her extrapolations of the themes engendered in those pieces as well as in the profoundly beautiful Harlem Nocturne that closed the album.
It is inevitable in the more intense passages of those, as well as Lori Bells’ own compositions, that these players are most compelling, though there is no shortage of virtuosity either, particularly in the finale of Harlem Nocturne. As a quartet there is much to impress too not the least in their sensitive approach to rubato in Ms. Bell’s Brooklyn Dreaming, one player unerringly mirroring the other. That goes for each and every player who, in his or her own way, becomes the bedrock of this tight ensemble – introverted in the more thoughtful pieces and justifiably extroverted in the ones that have a different air about them – like 3 Deuces Blues, for instance. I could not have imagined a warmer, richer flute sound – Lori Bell refulgent alongside Katie Thiroux – in that piece as well as in pieces where a lightening of mood and wit also prevail. However, I submit that it’s still reactive, involving interpretation and a reminder of riches that Ms Bell always bequeaths to the flute.
Lori Bell stands out even in the crowded market of younger flute players. She impressed enormously with her last outing The Music of Djavan (Resonance, 2008). Her tone is remarkably pure, with an inner steel audible in her control of intonation over larger spans. Her playing reminds me of Yusef Lateef sometimes and it would be interesting to hear how she would tackle the more adventurous repertoire that the late genius was known for. Ms. Bell has a position among virtuosos of her generation and always leaves mementos of her artistry whenever she puts the flute to her lips, a very physical and sensuous act as the music that comes out of it will testify. She has been aided by the crisp playing of her pianist Tamir Hendelman – on the last two discs and the pianist too never fails to give winningly fresh accounts of the music before him. On this new disc, the two are joined by two more supremely talented and sensitive artists – the ever wonderful bassist, Katie Thiroux and the sensitive drummer Matt Witek.
This is an album that pays tribute to ‘the scene’ as a Bebop player might call Brooklyn, the heartbeat of the jazz world of New York. Repertoire has either been specially chosen for the occasion or specially composed to go along with the classic markers opening with Mingus’ Nostalgia in Times Square and closing with another classic Harlem Nocturne. The disc is going to be recognised as the standard for a flute-led album sooner or later. Repertoire will be one of the reasons why. The other reason will be the outstandingly memorable contributions from each of the players from the first not to the last.
Track List: Nostalgia in Times Square; Times Squared; 52nd Street Theme; Streets of New York; Brooklyn Dreaming; A Dog on Coney; Lower Manhattan; 3 Deuce Blues; Harlem Nocturne.
Personnel: Lori Bell: C flute and alto flute; Tamir Hendelman: piano; Katie Thiroux: bass; Matt Witek: drums.
About Lori Bell
Brooklyn native Lori Bell is a flutist and composer of admirable depth and broad musical sympathies. A resident of San Diego, she has contributed to the development of higher standards of performance while earning acclaim from both peers and critics for her artistry on stage and in recordings. Lori was born in a musical family. Her father was a big band lead trumpet player in NYC for over 30 years and her mother played the accordion with a great ear for both jazz and classical music. Read more…