Pity the poor flute. It suffered horrifically during the long siege of New Agery, which, oh please God let it be so!, now appears to finally have ground pretty much to a halt. Suddenly, what one had seen in the 60s in Jeremy Steig, Bjorn Jasun Lindh, Charles Lloyd, Paul Winter, and sundry others became a syrupy goo fest that found its new roots in Steven Halpern and Gerogia Kelley with Winter unfortunately dropping in for tea, later spewing out John Tesh, Yanni, and other saccharine monstrosities too hideous to mention. Even cats like Dave Valentin gave way under the ocean of molasses and treacle for a period of time. But now, the tide's gone out, and it appears intelligence is finding its way back to the surface. That's certainly the case with Andrea Brachfeld's Lady of the Island. Yeah, I know the title kinda hints of unicorns and hobbits, but, trust me, this is a solid release (and the song, you may recall, is a Graham Nash composition).
Besides Brachfeld's own forays between measured lyricism and bop, Bill O'Connell's piano and Wycliffe Gordon's trombone (only three cuts for Gordon, but, man, wotta presence!) add immeasurably to the ambiances, with Kim Plainfield's drumming ever a source of subtle and engaging backgrounding. Solos and improvs abound, often carefully considered as each line moves, brimming with twists and abstractions that never forsake the melodic center. The interplay in Brachfeld's own Little Girl's Song is ceaseless—everyone, Brachfeld included, twining around a convoluted progression. Not one cut on the CD is under six minutes, so there's puh-lenty of room for everyone to stretch out, and no one's shy about trotting their chops near and far (catch Chembo Corniel's killer congas in Four Corners, Plainfield racing along right behind him, Andrea's flute dancing like a zephyr).
Save for the flautist's wispily angelic background vocal refrains in the title cut, the entire disc is instrumental, an hour-long constant groove with pools of reflection dotting the terrain. Blend the old Blue Note, ECM, Kudu, and CTI sounds into one tasty composite and you have Lady of the Island, a re-evocation of a time when this mode was peaking, now sadly dormant save for labels like Zoho, Brachfeld's new home, and a few others. Favorite cut? Four Corners. Knocks me on my ass, though Bebop Hanna is exceedingly memorable as well, as much for its humor and brash in your face sassiness as its chops.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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