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Jeremy Steig: Flute Fever

Dan McClenaghan By

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Flute Fever, the 1963 Columbia Records debut by flutist Jeremy Steig, has somehow, until now, avoided release on CD. Thanks to reissue producer Jonathan Horwich, Steig's beautifully remastered and packaged freshman recording is now available. And it's not only Steig's premier as a recording artist, it's also a recording first for pianist Denny Zeitlin, on a quartet that's rounded out by veterans Ben Riley on drums, and Ben Tucker on bass.

It's a blowing session—no group rehearsal, just some brief pre-recording discussions about how to approach some familiar tunes. But man, what a blowing session.

The wild men of jazz are usually saxophonists. Flute players are more apt to roll with a laid-back and gentile approach to the music; but Jeremy Steig—as green as could be in terms of recording resume—comes out blowing like the devil on saxophonist Sonny Rollins' "Oleo." After a brief period of restraint on the tune's opening, Steig ratchets the energy level up to the clouds. Zeitlin, in the accompaniment mode, stays right with him, stabbing sharp statements into what amounts to a fire and brimstone flute rant. If Steig sounds as if he's trying to fly off the face of the Earth, Zeitlin—on a masterful solo—sounds like an architect designing an ornate edifice meant to last forever down here on the ground.

And its worth mentioning: these guys were young. Steig, born in 1942, was 21. Zeitlin was twenty-five.

Blowing sessions feature the familiar, and Flute Fever is no exception. "Lover Man" tests the young musicians' mettle on the ballad form. It's an eleven minute exploration of the tune, declared at its close, on mic, a masterpiece by then producer John Hammond. He was right. Steig's tone, as he blew the sad, sweet syllables—had a beautiful, rich purity. Zeitlin laid things down with a seasoned patience, soloing with an assured and impeccable grace.

The quartet delves into "Well You Needn't," from the pen of Thelonious Monk, the standard "Willow Weep for Me," Miles Davis' "So What," the much-covered "What Is This Thing Called Love?" (with an alternate take included here) and another Sonny Rollins' gem, "Blues Seven."

Flute Fever, Introducing the Exciting New Sound of The Jeremy Steig Quartet, Featuring Denny Zeitlin, an exceptional album, is now an exceptional CD, one of the finest jazz flute recordings to be found.

Track Listing: Oleo; Lover Man; What Is This Thing Called Love; So What; Well You Needn't; Willow Weep For Me; Blue Seven; What Is This Thing Called Love? (take 1).

Personnel: Jeremy Steig: flute; Denny Zeitlin: piano; Ben Riley: drums; Ben Tucker: bass.

Title: Flute Fever | Year Released: 2013 | Record Label: IPO Recordings

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