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Both the title of flutist Andrea Brachfeld’s 10th recording as a leader and her trio’s name provide clues to what this master musician is up to on this bracing eight-song set. Her style has certainly evolved since the 1970s, when she made a splash on New York City’s hyperactive Latin music scene, specializing in the flute-and-violin-grounded Cuban charanga craze.
In the intervening decades, Brachfeld has conquered the stylistic demands of many idioms, most recently Brazilian modes. Her aptly named group, led by pianist Bill O’Connell, the flutist’s longtime collaborator, and featuring bassist Harvie S and drummer Jason Tiemann, possesses the collective and individual instincts to respond intuitively and instantaneously to the ebb and flow of the Brachfield’s whims. In short, the date delivers in abundance the hallmarks of what makes mainstream, acoustic improvisational music so appealing: unleashed virtuosity, unforced interplay among the participants and intellectually flirtatious soloing.
Allowing her message to evolve organically rather than imposing it with a heavy hand, Brachfield introduces a spiritual theme on several tracks, paying homage to native peoples and their traditions and making a plea for global harmony. “The Hut Song” finds the leader overdubbing two ethnic flutes with kalimba (thumb piano) and alto flute as the trio digs into a jagged 6/8 groove. As the track fades out, she taps a mystic, mournful mood with a few notes from a Colombian clay flute. On “Qingauiit,” the ambiance is more restful as the group draws inspiration — albeit from some distance — from the Inuit people of the Arctic region on what amounts to a gorgeous ballad take.
Notably, O’Connell and Brachfeld co-authored all the compositions. As they demonstrate on “What’s Up,” the rhythmically surging opening track, the duo is in perfect synch throughout the riveting take. Add the equally striking contributions of rhythm mates Tiemann and Harvey S, and there’s a strong argument to be made that this is one of the elite working groups in jazz today. — Mark Holston