No matter where we go, our formative experiences travel with us. That's what Lori Bell appears to say with Brooklyn Dreaming. For her ninth album, this California-based flutist decided to glance eastward, recalling time spent soaking in the sounds of New York City with her musical family in her youth. The result? A love letter that proves that Bell has bi-coastal jazz citizenship, having been baptized in Brooklyn's swing and sizzle while currently belonging to the hot Golden State scene.
Brooklyn Dreaming is clearly Bell's baby, but her band mates deserve equal credit for bringing this music to life. She's joined by a trio of West Coast rhythm acesClayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra-associated pianist Tamir Hendelman, rising star drummer Matt Witek, and bassist Katie Thiroux, a hot topic since self-releasing her debut and being selected as a semi-finalist in the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Competition for vocalists. Together, these three expertly navigate their way through six Bell creations and three covers that all fit the New York-centric theme.
While Brooklyn holds Bell's heart and gets top billing here, only a pair of piecesthe airy, calmly waltzing title track and an angular, swinging ode to enjoying a Nathan's hot dog on Coney Islandreference that borough. Six of the seven other numbers are firmly planted in Manhattan by name. The album starts in the tourist-filled heart of New York City, referencing Times Square not once, but twice. Charles Mingus' famed "Nostalgia in Times Square," opening with some incredibly tasty brushwork from Witek, kicks things off, and Bell's own "Times Squared," a wonderful slice of chilled-out funk ushered in with a rubato preface, follows it. As the album continues, Bell moves all around the city. A perky and spicy look at Thelonious Monk's "52nd Street Theme" and a hip "3 Deuce Blues" both nod to the same stretch of jazz clubs that's no longer with us; an inventive take on "Harlem Nocturne," shifting from a mysterious feel in five to a comfortable swing, looks further uptown; and a Latin-ized "Lower Manhattan" points in the opposite direction.
Bell glides, glows, and runs up and down her flute in seemingly effortless fashion throughout. Her rhythm mates, in turn, keep the grooves swinging and flowing while adding their two cents in all the right places. Brooklyn Dreaming is a tight and classy affair that furthers Bell's fine reputation, shines a spotlight on her talented compatriots, and reminds us all that east and west aren't so far apart after all.
Nostalgia In Times Square; Time Squared; 52nd Street Theme; Streets Of New York; Brooklyn Dreaming; A Dog On Coney; Lower Manhattan; 3 Deuce Blues; Harlem Nocturne.
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