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
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
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