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Claude Bolling: Symphonic Arrangement: Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio (arr. Steve Barta)
Hubert Laws (Flute), Mike Shapiro (Bass), Michael Valerio (Drums), Jeffrey Biegel (Piano), Peter Rotter (Conductor)
Recording: Entourage Studios, North Hollywood, California (January 2015) – 39’
Steve Barta Music #SBMCD01 – Booklet in English

Historic commemorations have a way of honoring time while proving inspirational avenues of outreach. Look no further, for the treasured Claude Bolling composition, Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano, has a new musical stance thanks to visionary Steve Barta. Back in 1975 the original release created a sensational buzz due to its melding of classical and jazz genres into a transformational alchemy. Further, Mr. Barta’s new inspirational trajectories spawned a wide range of options for eagerly awaiting musicians: jazz quartet, string quartet, orchestra, and, in this case, a Symphonic Arrangement. The 40th year anniversary celebrating Mr. Bolling’s iconic crossover invention features a crème de la crème core that invigorates the score with a brightly washed appeal.

So, what’s new with this new vision? Those familiar with the Bolling version will discern the polite and colorful divestiture doesn’t prominently present itself until after the first two movements. That said, however, the opening “Baroque and Blue” has a more emphatic tempo which allows Hubert Laws to funnel notes into rarified delight while the ensuing “Sentimentale” possesses greater momentum.

A digress begins inside the snappy “Javanaise”, a rhythmic backdraft reminder of Brubeck’s Take Five, whereby Barta chooses to step up the pacing with more rhythmic accentuation. This enables richer and more three-dimensional landscaping. Here, we discover a more fix contemporain, permeating Bolling lines through use of xylophone and brass infections. These key instrumental values shine throughout the remainder of the movement. Jeffrey Biegel’s impish, improvisational-like skills flow freely and mightily and float endlessly. The Laws/Biegel tête à tête is catchy and effervescent.

Hubert Laws opens the “Fugace” with sprite-like flute-flickers only to be occasionally outdone with exchanges by Biegel’s Erroll Garner-like carefree essences. Michael Shapiro grounds the piece with his insistent percussion that are pressed upon moderately by an influx of strings, bass and deepened orchestra. The approach is conservative, yet stately. Steve Barta’s rendition is superlative.

The earthy bass of Mike Valerio sets the tone and acts as the anchor inside the “Irlandaise.” Jeffrey Biegel is a pianist who dares to cross his tradition-bound classical venue. The end result is a virtuosic interpretation that’s bluesy and a bit folksy. There’s even a bit of a restraining ‘jiggish’ dialogue which ensues with Laws. Though nothing can compare to the Rampal/Bolling combination, this is one interpretation that will agree with all parties considered.

An astonishingly complex yet fruitful display unveils itself in the penultimate “Versatile”, yet this section has an impressive departure from the Jean-Pierre Rampal original bass flute: the Rampal resultant was moodier and heavier. When practicing the piece, Mr. Laws hesitated: his preference was to opt for lighter fare. This is where artistic license makes for significant allowances and freedom. In this case, the choice was apropos. Additionally, Biegel enhances the keyboard with fioratura flouncing in a way that’s like none other. Mr. Barta’s decision to acquiesce to Mr. Laws’ wishes were prudent. Overall, this version appears higher, shinier and more lucid, utilizing subtle harmonic formulations.

Liner notes inside the CD are concise, yet brief. Traditionally-tethered, Roger Huyssen’s delightfully cartoonish artwork expands upon the album’s original cover. Now Mr. Huyssen creatively opens up the doors to the bedroom’s symphony of friends...whimsically provoking.

Indeed, Marseilles-born flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal is a tough act to follow. The master of trendy flute perspectives, Rampal, nonetheless, opened new gateways of expression. Steve Barta’s arrangements and acoustical knowledge are glowing and enchanting. A ‘must-listen’ for crossover enthusiasts.

Christie Grimstad




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