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Cantilena records

Claude BOLLING (b. 1930)
Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (1973) [35:26]
Suite No. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (1987) [51:11]
Laurel Zucker, flute, alto flute, bass flute
Joe Gilman, piano
Jeff Neighbor, bass
David Rokeach, percussion
Rec. Skywalker Sound in San Rafael, California. DDD
CANTILENA RECORDS 66025-2 [35:26 + 51:11]

The marriage of jazz and classical music is not a new concept. The Paul Whiteman Orchestra would regularly use European music as an entry point for their audience in the early days of commercial jazz. Stan Kenton attempted to fuse the two worlds with great success in the 1940s and 1950s. More recently, Wynton Marsalis explored the concept of jazz/classical fusion with his Blood on the Fields. Then, of course, there is the great George Gershwin. However, these fusions are all attempted with larger groups, taking the big band as a basis and adding further instrumentation to bring grandeur.

The present two works for flute and jazz piano trio come at the fusion in a different way. They take classical forms and apply them to small-group jazz. The resulting music is very reminiscent of Vince Guaraldi’s music for the Charlie Brown television specials or the West Coast jazz recordings with Bud Shank from the 1950s. The individual movements tend towards the cool-school jazz with none of the multiphonics first popularized by Herbie Mann and Sam Most, Latin jazz reminiscent of Jobim or the Eastern Orient influenced jazz played by Yusef Lateef in the 1960s. Much like Dave Brubeck’s music with Paul Desmond on Adventures in Time or Time Out, it is light jazz, airy and free, incredibly listenable, and fun.

The first disc offers the 1973 Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio. The first movement begins in a manner reminiscent of a baroque prelude but quickly changes to swing, then back again in rondo form. That serves well as an introduction to the approach Claude Bolling used through the rest of the suite, alternating between traditional jazz with a flute playing the lead and more traditionally "classical" music that has a non-standard instrumentation. This is especially true in the final movement "Voloce". The suite is separated out into seven movements, each of which could be considered an individual piece for a jazz combo, but together they very certainly form a cohesive whole.

Suite No. 2 for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio is on the second disc. It shows more influence from pop-jazz. The instrumentation has not changed, but there is a much higher degree of composition, at least in feel. The suite comprises eight movements, but in this case they feel more interrelated. The opening movement, "Espiègle", switches seamlessly between bebop, Weather Report flavored jazz-rock, Romantic era drenched flute and piano duets, and unaccompanied flute cadenza. Indeed, it is remarkable how naturally the quartet is able instantly to shift with such ease. At times the music harks back to the First Suite with a very traditional flute sound refreshed through the use of the jazz trio accompaniment. This is followed by alternations between a "straight" flute and piano duet and "swung" piano trio. The fifth, sixth and seventh movements ("Pastorale", "Affectueuse", and "Intime") can be considered instrumental ballads which wonderfully utilize the mellow timbre of the flute and acknowledge classical traditions. The final movement is simply called "Jazzy", and makes nice summation overall. It is a vigorous bebop-influenced piece with shades of "Blue Bossa" in the piano.

The quartet assembled for these recordings is accomplished, if not particularly well known. Laurel Zucker is an award-winning flautist with more than twenty albums to her credit. Joe Gilman is the music director of the Capital Jazz Project and a professor of music theory and jazz piano at American River College. Jeff Neighbor is a top studio musician on bass, having performed with groups as diverse as the San Francisco Symphony, several movie soundtracks and Broadway productions, and with Cab Calloway, Kai Winding, Ray Charles, Chuck Berry, and Sweets Edison. Davis Rokeach has played drums for Aretha Franklin, Joe Satriani, and Ray Charles (among others) and teaches at the Berkeley Jazz School. Each player is equally versed in both jazz and symphonic traditions, and the overall recording reflects the appropriateness of these particular musicians.

Generally, if one is a fan of Dave Brubeck or Vince Guaraldi then one will enjoy this double album. When distilled, it is about an hour and a half of refined West Coast jazz excellently composed and performed. Taken for what it is, it must be very highly recommended.

Patrick Gary

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