Frank Wess & Flutology: First Date (2003)
If you like flutes this record may already be familiar; but if you're one of those listeners who's a little shy when it comes to the instrument some feel is too "pretty" for real jazz, this disc could well be the perfect first date. Flutology features veteran flautist Frank Wess - the musician who first popularized the instrument in jazz as a member of the Count Basie band - in the capable company of his two fabulous admirers, Holly Hoffman and Ali Ryerson, and the flawless rhythm section of Mike Wofford, Peter Washington and Ben Riley.
With Wess doubling on bass flute and Ryerson on alto flute for many of the ensemble parts, the front line coalesces into a superbly sonorous section. The splendid arrangements by Wofford and Wess exploit both the rich and subtle harmonic potentials of the unique grouping, an aspect of the collective that is fully exploited in the disc's superior sound quality which captures the music's many nuances, particularly Washington's distinctive notes and tone and Riley's dazzling brilliant rhythmic contributions.
The date is further insured by its musical menu, which features some of the most memorable melodies in the jazz repertory – including Dizzy Gillespie's articulately anthemic "BeBop," the beautiful Lee Morgan bossa nova "Ceora," the increasingly popular "This I Dig Of You" by Hank Mobley, and the Thad Jones classic "A Child Is Born." Wess contributes three first-rate compositions: an original take on Ellington's "A Train, Sumpn' Went Wrong"; a brisk walk through Trane's "Giant Steps" changes, "Equal Parts"; and an attractive waltz, "Pretty Is." The late great underrated Don Grolnick's exotic "Rainesville," a compelling composition combining Latin and Middle Eastern moods, is the disc's great discovery, a true gem to be forever treasured.
The album's concluding piece, Bill Cunliffe's soaring "Flutopia," aptly describes the destination to where this music will deliver true flute lovers and novices alike. It's a happy place where we can eagerly anticipate Flutology's next date.
This review originally appeared in AllAboutJazz-New York .
Track Listing: 1. Be Bop (Harris/Parker) - 6:32 2. Ceora (Morgan) - 6:54 3. Sumpn' Went Wrong (Wess) - 6:34 4. Rainesville (Grolnick) - 8:41 5. This I Dig of You (Mobley) - 4:40 6. Pretty Is (Wess) - 5:01 7. Equal Parts (Wess) - 3:36 8. A Child Is Born (Jones) - 4:14 9. Flutopia (Cunliffe) - 6:24
Personnel: Ali Ryerson - Flute, Alto Flute; Mike Wofford - Piano; Ben Riley - Drums; Peter Washington - Bass; Frank Wess - Flute, Bass Flute; Holly Hoffmann - Flute.