The debut album from flautist Alex Hamburger is a strong addition to the growing number of jazz albums drawing inspiration from the work and lives of prominent female artists. She plays here the compositions of several women composers, Geri Allen, Mary Lou Williams andJoni Mitchell, and sets her own music to the words of authors Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou and her grandmother, Paraguayan poet and activist Ana Maria R. Codas.
The music on the album is in a basic quartet format with the leader's flute and José Luiz Martins' keyboards often conversing subtly over Doug Weiss' bass and Chase Kuesel's drums. Geri Allen's "Unconditional Love" rides briskly on an easy samba rhythm and spotlights seductive flute playing and glowing electric piano. Hamburger's flute prowess really comes through on two pieces. On the easy-riding vibe of Mary Lou Williams' "What's Your Story Morning Glory" she plays the blues with a bit of sly Charles Lloyd-style vamping. "Burning The Letters" starts out with Hamburger blowing easily on an understated funk groove and ends with her acrobatically gliding over a lively Chick Corea-style Spanish dance melody.
The tracks using lyrics are generally quieter than the others but no less potent. "It Comes Unadorned" floats along on a drifting wave set up by flute and piano as Weiss and Kuesel percolate and Hamburger sings and recites Toni Morrison's words. "Waking In The City" begins with her singing a Maya Angelou poem against a droning arco bass line before flute and piano warily creep in and the quartet starts moving at a livelier tempo set by Kuesel. Joni Mitchell's "Last Chance Lost" is sung simply over plucked bass and tinkling piano before segueing directly into the Beatles' "Across The Universe," Hamburger's voice sounding direct and determined as the music becomes more lushly expansive thanks to Martins' Fender Rhodes work. The most forceful piece on the album is the one built around Ana Maria Codas' poem "La Desesperacion Ea La Pasion Verdaderamente Humana." Hamburger sings the words dramatically in Spanish over a bed of wary piano and brooding flute, creating a mood of somber determination that comes through even without understanding the lyrics.
This music feels light and airy at first hearing but eventually the quiet resolve and clear-eyed optimism in the program comes through. The combination of Alex Hamburger's haunting singing and solid flute playing with the strong backing of Martins, Weiss and Kuesel makes for an involving and moving set. This is a fine release whose power slowly grows.
Waking In The City; La Desesperacion Es La Pasion Verdadermente Humana; Unconditional Love, It
Comes Unadorned; What's Your Story Morning Glory; Last Chance Lost; Across The Universe; Burning