Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Ali Ryerson's Jazz Flute Big Band Game Changer Capri 2013

Ali Ryerson puts jazz flute out front with a stellar sixteen piece section on the dramatic debut release Game Changer.
Brent Black / @CriticalJazz

A sixteen piece flute section featuring guest soloists Holly Hofmann, Hubert Laws and Nestor Torres rip through a selection of jazz standards from such legends as Oliver Nelson, John Coltrane, and Clifford Brown. What sets Game Changer apart from similar large ensemble releases would be the addition of some more eclectic tunes such as "Sail Away" from Tom Harrell and "Lil' Darlin'" from Neal Hefti. The rhythm section is held together with fine performances from legendary bassist Rufus Reid and drummer / percussionist Akira Tana. Pianist Mark Levine fills the need for a pianist but seems to blend quietly into the woodwork with a somewhat predictable arrangement of the terrific Clifford Brown piece, "Daahoud." It is the vibrant counterpoint of both Reid and Tana that provide the necessary backing to push this most ambitious ensemble to greater heights.

Game Changer is aptly titled due to the unmistakable quality of going past the somewhat obvious preconceived notions of a flute ensemble and instead transition to a more conventional jazz ensemble / small big band approach that is somewhat left of center. The members of the flute section are all seasoned veterans with standout performances from Hubert Laws, Nester Torres, and Jamie Baum. Another key to success is the overwhelming passion and obvious chemistry brought to the table as the Jazz Flute Big Band continues to make gigantic leaps forward when promoting the flute within the more conventional form and functionality of similar size ensembles. Aside from the obvious instrumental prowess of virtually all the participants the arrangements of Michael Abene, Mike Wofford, and Bill Cunliffe certainly seal the deal and as bassist Reid was quoted in speaking to Ali Ryerson after the recording session, "You have a gem here, my friend."

4 Stars. An impressive stride in placing the flute back in the forefront of a horn driven ensemble.

Tracks: Daahoud; Ana Maria; Stolen Moments; Speak Like A Child; Con Alma; Girl Talk; Payane; Impressions; Sail Away; Lil' Darlin'.

Personnel: Marc Adler: C and Alto Flute; Jamie Baum: C and Alto Flute; Andrea Brachfeld: C and Alto Flute; Fernando Brandao: C, Alto and Bass Flute; Bob Chadwick: Bass Flute; Richard Ford: C and Alto Flute; Kris Keith: C and Alto Flute; Zachary Kellogg: Piccolo and C Flute; Billy Kerr: C and Alto Flute; Paul Liberman C, Alto and Bass Flute; Rachael Rodgers: C Flute; Jonathan Royce: C and Alto Flute; Ali Ryerson: C and Alto Flute; Donna Sevcovic: Bass Flute; Stan Slotter: C and Alto Flute; Keith Underwood: Bass and Contrabass Flute.

Guest Soloists: Holly Hofmann: C Flute; Hubert Laws: Alto Flute; Nestor Torres: C Flute.  

Rhythm Sections: Rufus Reid: Bass; Akira Tana: Drums / Percussion; Mark Levine: Piano.