Flautist Andrea Brachfeld has always professed an affinity for jazz and, though her background clearly demonstrates varied musical tastes, she has always been a hard bop musician at the core. Lady of the Island is the realization of a dream where the music selected reflects the jazz styles that tugs at her heart the most. Begun many years ago, this album is a triumph over personal and professional challenges, a session of tasteful, swinging and unquestionably entertaining melodies.
The flautist performs with a core quartet augmented by special guests including piano great Bill O'Connell and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon (one of Brachfeld's musical influences) who appear on the opening "Bebop Hanna," setting the stage for a tantalizing set. Flawlessly performing O'Connell's arrangement of pianist Herbie Hancock's "Eye of the Hurricane" (one of the flautists' favorites), trumpeter Wallace Roney, Gordon, bassist Andy Eulau drummer Kim Plainfield and O'Connell all making an impression.
Duke Ellington's masterful "I Got It Bad" is the set's first ballad, a duet performed exquisitely by Brachfeld on alto flute with O'Connell, together turning in one of the album's clear highlights. The core quartet delivers another highlight on the original "Little Girl's Song," featuring pianist Bob Quaranta in a pronounced role as the leader withdraws a bit, allowing the band to make its mark. Borrowing from O'Connell's songbook, the group lays down a swinging, hard bop rendition of "Dead Ahead," with Roney's blazing trumpet accompanying the leader on her own dazzling C- flute solo.
On one of the hardest driving pieces of the recording, alto saxophonist Todd Bashore flies high on a version of trumpeter Freddie Hubbard's "Birdlike," propelled by Wycliffe's strong playing and the leader's own floating lines. O'Connell and Brachfeld join forces for the defining statement of the project on their beautiful, co-written ballad, "In The Center." The Latin-tinged title track offers just as complimentary a performance, adding conguero/percussionist Chembo Corniel and Brachfield's background vocals to the mix, along with young Cuban flugelhornist Yasek Manzano, for another set highlight.
As with the album's opening salvo, Brachfeld closes this audacious album in the same swinging fashion with the sizzling, Latin-influenced rhythms of "Four Corners." The award-winning Andrea Brachfeld draws on her experience with many genres, her affinity for the Latin flair including performances in Cuba, and her love of jazz, encapsulating an assortment of rich melodies and swinging grooves on Lady of the Island. The selection of music and the personnel listing alone is enticement enough to sample the treasures found on this island.
Bebop Hanna; Eye Of The Hurricane; I Got It Bad; Little Girl's Song; Dead Ahead; Birdlike; In The Center; Lady Of The Island; Four Corners.
Andrea Brachfeld: C flute (1, 2, 4-7, 9), alto flute (3, 8), vocals (8); Bob Quaranta: piano (4, 9), Fender Rhodes (8); Andy Eulau: bass (1, 2, 4-9); Kim Plainfield: drums (1, 2, 4-9); Todd Bashore: alto saxophone (2, 6); Chembo Corniel: congas (2, 6, 8, 9), percussion (8); Wycliffe Gordon: trombone (1, 2, 6); Yasek Manzano: trumpet (2, 6, 9), flugelhorn (8); Bill O'Connell: piano (1-3, 5-8); Wallace Roney: trumpet (2, 5).