Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet with Special Guest Terell Stafford
Earlier this year I came by two very different, but very interesting CDs falling into the jazz release bag. There are similarities. Both have been released on smaller specialist labels, and perhaps prove the adage that behind every great jazz flute player there stands a dedicated and supportive record label. Capri Records have released over a hundred titles, with Holly Hofmann shining on four, including Live at Athenaeum Jazz Vol 2 in a duet with pianist Mike Wofford. I recommend this CD to flute players to hear how well a jazz partnership can work. This has inspired duetting, and is worth finding and adding to your collection.
All players on Turn Signal do a great jazz job, and the seven tracks are top musical value. Rob Thorsen, bass, and Richard Sellers, drums, are a perfect team and sparkling soloists too. This is a CD where the whole experience is greater than the sum of individual tracks. The listener should bring a receptive ear and relaxed quality time to the listening. There is much good composing and arranging, with carefully constructed soloing and variety within a solid mainstream concert jazz milieu. This is not a CD from which you can download one or two tracks and feel that you've captured the best. Even my current favorite, the surprising, inspired, Wofford arrangement of Pure Imagination is carefully programmed at track five. The lead voice combinations of trumpet/flugelhorn, with flute/ alto flute/piccolo, work well too, with Stafford and Hofmann bringing off an almost faultless balance and blend of such different and technically challenging instruments.
Most of the tracks are between six and nine minutes, and take time to unfold and develop, with surprises along the way. The liner notes are useful in giving background material, but the music stands on its own and it is testament to Wofford's tasty writing, and cunning reconstructions. And Holly Hofmann shines throughout as a unique flute stylist.
Check out Turn Signal on YouTube.
Vacances et Passions
Marjorie Van Halteren, Paul Cheneour, & Hugo Kostrzewa
Paul Cheneour, flutist, with Marjorie Van Halteren's vocal skills, and Hugo Kostrzewa working from guitar and midi-controlling. Here are eight tracks, described as a musical soundscape, performed in real time, and featuring a collection of very unusual but pleasant sounding instruments. There are more than twenty instruments, including several different flutes, along with voices, presenting scenes and feelings perhaps of a summer holiday at the beach. The texture is mostly light, with a gentle folksy, even toy instrument sound: not in your face and ears screaming free jazz!
Beginning with a short (3:20) I like the sound of sand running, and including a long (12:54) Ca (This), and including a track lovingly or laughingly titled Silence, which has a modal blues feel, and works well particularly for bass and bass flute, and improvised vocal. This is a spontaneous happy work song heading briefly into silence. The CD presents a concert to be enjoyed, and to be relaxed and gently warmed by. It is also a masterwork of improvised ensemble interactions, and another successful venture from Paul Cheneour, with flutes aplenty.
Check it out at www.redgoldmusic.com
Solo Pieces for the Advanced Flutist
From well-established niche publishers, Mel Bay, come two collections of interest to jazz flute players.
Included with three other standard works in Solo Pieces for the Advanced Flutist is Diversions on a Bach Prelude. This is a concert jazz style development of a Bach work by Donna Gilliam, and Mizzy McCaskill, complete with written piano accompaniment, and play-along backing /practice tracks. At almost six and a half minutes, it is an ideal concert piece for festival or fun, and is sufficiently challenging for the performer, but engaging for the audience. Although no harmonic indications or chord symbols are given, it is not difficult to recognise the harmonic structure, and to add embellishments, or even substitute improvised sections if desired.
My suggestion is to play through this work slowly, using a metronome, and internalise the phrasing, and contrasting articulations. Be careful to develop or refine a true legato jazz style in playing the eighth-note or quaver passages. The piano accompaniment supplied works fine with this. Then rehearse in sections with the CD's backing tracks, and finally, play it with a pianist, and plan a concert.
Jazz Flute Duets
This is a collection of six two-page duets by famed saxophonist, composer, and master arranger Lennie Niehaus. For years I have used his sax duets with my students, and this is even better!
Rehearse slowly with a metronome. Niehaus compositions have almost constant melodic and rhythmic changes and contrasts, with modulations and implied key changes often. Watch carefully for accidentals (particularly listen to the last note of the measure!). Play running jazz passages in a legato jazz (triplet) style, but be ready to change instantly to "even eighths" if indicated.
I like to work on the lower part of each duet first to establish a good speed, and then learn the top line, noticing changes from unison rhythms between the parts, to intertwining, more fugal type sections. Slightly emphasize each new entry in these sections.
The duets make good concert fillers, and are rewarding sight-reading challenges for students and friends. Also fun to play with a drummer. They shouldn't sound dry or academic. Try to bring out the musicality of these little gems.