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Veteran Frank Wess keeps the tenor saxophone aside and picks up his flutes to frontline this recording with Ali Ryerson and Holly Hofman. The three bring in a large measure of charm, the selections boasting both original material and covers, aided by a rhythm section that cleaves to their intent. And it is to their credit that they don’t let the music evaporate into nothingness.
The flute is an airy instrument and can sail over the depth and the tonality that gives a song muscle and tone. But Wess is a navigator of the highest order and he filters the mood most convincingly. This is more palpable on happy tunes like the high flying “Sumpn’ Went Wrong,” a Wess composition. It is bright and sparkling and soars free as the wind, just like “Flutopia,” with its happy permutation and the slightly shifting meter. Another adjunct comes on the sweetly flowing “Pretty Is." It is a lightly swinging tune on which Mike Wofford on piano and Peter Washington on bass, add distinctive solos and color to the palette.
Charlie Parker’s “Be Bop” is arranged well enough to bring in an emphatic mood. Wess rides a passionate crest of emotion as Ben Riley, whose drumming keeps the pulse revved up, and Washington lend a firm depth. However, Lee Morgan’s “Ceora” is shorn of bite and is less than appealing. Nevertheless, in the overall scheme, this is an entertaining album.
Jazz is a continuing revelation. The best show I ever attended was the
Roots Picnic at Penn's Landing in Philadelphia, or was it Robert
Glasper's Experiment at Lincoln Center, or was it Chick Corea with
Brian Blade at Oberlin College? Most of all I enjoy playing guitar and
composing beats with my Brooklyn-based group Space Captain.