There have been all-saxophone bands (Bob Prince), all-trombone bands (Urbie Green) and all-trumpet bands (Pete Rugolo). Into this tradition of flooding the zone for fans who passionately love the sound of a specific instrument is flutist Ali Ryerson. By thinking big, she has assembled the Jazz Flute Big Band (JFBB), and the ensemble's new CD Game Changer (Capri) displays enormous heft and lightness. Like the Eiffel Tower, you marvel at the size and scope of the JFBB while at the same time finding yourself bedazzled by its airy silhouette.
There are 16 flutists on this recording, with three guest flute soloists—Hubert Laws, Nestor Torres and Holly Hofmann. The rhythm section features Mark Levine on piano, Rufus Reid on bass and Akira Tana on drums and percussion. The arrangers include Mike Abene, Mike Wofford, Bill Cunliffe, Billy Kerr, Steve Rudolph and Mark Levine.
The results are breezy, hip and swinging—particularly on Daahoud, Stolen Moments, John Coltrane's Impressions and Lil' Darlin'. Moody tracks that work in a big way are Wayne Shorter's Ana Maria and Herbie Hancock's Speak Like a Child. And then there's Cunliffe's arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie's Con Alma. It maximizes the flute frenzy, swirling down and then up before landing on the theme statement. As pretty as can be. The same goes for Abene's swaggering arrangement of Girl Talk and Hofmann's solo. A lot of beauty moving in the same direction. [Photo above of Holly Hofmann]
Hats off to Ali Ryerson, a gorgeous flutist in her own right, for seeing the possibility of an armada of flutes and finding a way to get them all in line for some breathtaking playing. [Picture above: Hubert Laws]
JazzWax tracks: You'll find the Ali Ryerson Jazz Flute Big Band's Game Changer (Capri) here.
JazzWax clips: Here's Ali Ryerson talking about how she put together the Jazz Flute Big Band...
JazzWax note: Remember my interview with 14-year-old Rachel Rodgers back in 2009? Guess who's a member of the JFBB...