Showing posts with label Lori Bell. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lori Bell. Show all posts

Saturday, March 9, 2024

Sublime Joe Henderson Tribute from the Lori Bell Quartet

 Recorda Me: Remembering Joe Henderson -- Lori Bell Quartet

It’s more a case of slipping into a comfy, loose-fitting garment than it is studying Lori Bell’s latest release, Recorda Me: Rememb ering Joe Henderson. Kicking off with the late jazz saxophone great’s composition ‘Isotope,’” Bell nimbly states the spry signature theme, and one finds oneself unexpectedly wholly immersed in a delightful exchange between the flutist and pianist Josh Nelson. She and the keyboardist weave a delicate and swinging set of variations on it. Nelson’s touch on the keys is light, deft, and swinging, surely over the subdued but percolating tempo provided by bassist David Robaire and drummer Dan Schnelle. Bell is, as she has always been in her distinguished effort, a flutist with unlimited resources who brings her nuanced lines to the fabric that the others have created for her on the opening track. Her playing soars, bringing a different assortment of tonal color to her speedy bop-informed lines and the lyrical blues coloration she often provides in her slower passages.

The album continues in this pleasurable vein, a sagacious offering of deceptively easy grooves and meters. The Lori Bell Quartet has an odd combination in that the allure in this album’s worth of interpretation of Joe Henderson’s compositions lies in the kind of classical precision, yet full of the intricate twists and shifting chord voices that elevate the improvisational acumen of all the players. It’s apparent halfway through the disc that this does not come across as a routine “tribute” to a departed jazz giant as well as projects that—in spite of good intentions—too often seem lifeless or at least absent the grace and luxuriant finesse of whomever the tribute is geared toward.

Bell avoids stifling perfectionism that mars such efforts and lets Joe Henderson’s compositions breathe in a way; the ensemble allows itself to be playful with the music in front of them, undulating with a steady yet continually evolving succession of rhythmic invention. Henderson’s saxophone playing was rich and expressive, versatile and harmonically complex. He had at his disposal an armada of voices that would be brackish and groove, smooth and lyrical, excitingly precise as his compositions required. Deeply rooted in the blues, Henderson’s songwriting used Latin and Afro references, elements creating an insistent and flexible rhythmic basis that made his inventive use of unexpected chord progressions more provocative. His music was one of dynamic but unassuming brilliance.

Recorda Me: Remembering Joe Henderson is stellar work, with the collective readings of Henderson’s “Inner Urge,” “A Shade of Jade,” and the tour de force workout on the title track, with its ascending and descending themes and shifting melody contrasts. It is a wondrous effort toward a breathtaking whole: Bell negotiates Henderson’s galloping changes with quicksilver improvisations over Nelson’s sympathetic chordings and counter melodies. His solo outing here in turn is a keen master class in uncluttered elegance. A shout out as well for the very fine work by drummer Schnelle and bassist Robaire, a rhythm section pursuing a dialogue of their own as meters swerve and sway and swing. Recorda Me does exactly what Bell and her superlative quartet intended, reintroducing listeners to a resourceful and exciting musician and composer. This music moves fast on the uptake, is light on its feet, and is memorable and compelling, rendered with a fervent wholeheartedness by a superlative ensemble.    

(originally prublished in the San Diego Troubadour).

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Lori Bell and Ron Satterfield
Lori Bell and Ron Satterfield have spent the last few years wowing and beguiling audiences with their vibrant combination of straight ahead, pop, and boss nova-inflected jazz. Blue(s), their new album, is a welcome release, an intoxicating blend of classic tunes by Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans among others, and three guileful originals by Bell. Flutist Bell and guitarist /vocalist Satterfield are a musical combination that have the shared the reflexes of swift and nimble dancers, negotiating difficult changes and moving gracefully through a varied and rich field of tempos, moods, and tones. Those of us lucky enough to witness their magic live no Bell’s wonderful accomplishments during a performance. Her improvisations are a sublime complement of speed and grace, with a skill to interpret material, reshape melodies, and play tricky and shifting tempos. Her technique is meteoric, but they do not sacrifice the sweetness of the music in service to mere virtuosity.

Bell’s genius for inventing melodic conceptions in seamless succession fuses with Satterfield’s adroit guitar work. Eschewing solos, he instead switches between different comping requirements with ease, verve, and style. He gleefully alternates between straight up walking bass lines and shuffle patterns to the subdivided syncopations of Bossa nova, and shows the dulcet intuition of a pianist on the more somber material. (Note: Satterfield is a fine pianist as well with an agile and delicate touch, a quality that informs a nearly flawless sense of rhythm and groove. There’s no lack of variety on blue(s). Those requiring their music be up-tempo and big league, Bell’s own “Bell’s Blues” begins the album with all cylinders firing. It’s a hard-swinging blue with some sweet criss-cross changes and the flutist swooping and pirouetting over Satterfield’s propulsive chords; Satterfield, at midpoint, eases into the fury with a lyric scat vocal, mirroring Bell’s effervescent notes with his own vocalese. Satterfield’s voice is one wonder of Southern California jazz.
The pair retook Monk’s “Blue Monk” into a 6/8 time rush, the usually doleful melody transformed into whistling, scat-happy whimsy. Satterfield launches firmly from a beautifully clipped Latin groove and propels the material with galloping chords, over which Bell decorates the combustible pace with an airy, sprite set of improvisations, springing off Satterfield’s able time keeping. Another high point is a refreshingly sprite arrangement of Miles Davis’s classic “All Blues.” With rare exceptions, later versions of the tune have treated Davis’ original arrangement–slow, somber, casually yet firmly swaying–as sacrosanct. Bell and Satterfield prefer to create anew, allowing them to mess with the song’s mood, elevating from its muted and brooding essence as a tone poem and turn that swaying motion into something close to a swinging rhythm. Bell’s mastery is in full evidence, weaving sprite, flutter-tongued phrases over and between Satterfield’s brisk and agile chord voicings.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Brooklyn Dreaming: jazz flutist Lori Bell returns home

 Brooklyn Dreaming--Lori Bell 
In the 1970s and early ’80s I worked at the Summer House Inn in La Jolla as a combination desk clerk, switchboard operator, bell man, reservationist, and whatever odd job that needed to be done that didn’t require driving the company car. It was an okay job, nothing great, but the greatest benefit of working there was that Elario’s, at the time one of the best jazz clubs in Southern California, was perched on 11th floor of the high-rise. It was at Elario’s where I was introduced to the music of Brooklyn native and San Diego resident Lori Bell, a jazz flautist (or flutist?) in live performance. Playing with the very fine pianist Dave McKay and with her own groups, Bell’s flute work was a revelation of sorts. Her tone is firm and she shows a virtuoso’s command of the sounds it produces. Whether digging into the sub-atomic emotions that are the genius of the blues, releasing a torrent of inspired runs on the obstacle course complexities of bop or the nuanced, minor key subtleties of a ballad, Lori Bell played her flute in any fashion she chose.

Delicacy and strength, firm and rhythmic, unfaltering and malleable, hers is a sound with verve and lyricism. That said, Bell has released her ninth studio album, Brooklyn Dreaming, a tribute to her place of birth and where her heart and roots remain. She is joined her by Matt Witek on drums, Tami Hendelman on piano, and Katie Thiroux on bass, an ensemble reveling in what seems like telepathic communication during in both the softer and more dynamic album selections. The album is a tribute to the vital elan of Bell’s fabled native grounds, but over anything else this album’s main attraction are the top shelf performances.

These sessions wails, soars and swings on the good grace of superb musicianship.Noteworthy are the hard-charging interpretations on the twisting turns of Charlie Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square”; brisk, given to fast tempo changes and the odd quirks Mingus is known for in his writing, Bell’s solo is magnificent, building with simple statements and gradually accelerating the speed, upping the ante, and dancing on the edge of the rhythm section’s sublimely kept pace. Bell’s original compositions—“Times Squared,” “Brooklyn Dreaming,” “A Dog on Coney”—provide what we can take as the New York attitude: fast, in-your-face , loquacious, but friendly and swinging. Bell finds the mood, explores the variations, makes it all swing, her notes precise and rounded, fleeting and wild in their spirit. Hendelman’s piano work has that extra-sensory element suggested from before. His chords  chime magically to provide a suitable push and texture to the ensemble, and his solos are rich complements to Bell’s, matching her in stratospheric outlay of ideas but adding his own deft touches. Half chords, short runs, and bell-tone octaves make him the necessary musician to have around. Likewise, the teamwork of the Witek and Thiroux rhythm section move this wonderfully realized session with an ease dually dynamic and apt.

The songs cover a wide swath of styles, and the team is there, keeping the pace lively, varied, soaring. I would ask that the musicians take a bow, one by one, for the fine work they created for this very fine album.

(This review originally appeared in The San Diego Troubadour. Used with kind permission.)