Holly Hofmann – Low Life (The Alto Flute Project) [TrackList follows] – Capri Records 74133 (5/20/14) ****:

Andrea Brachfeld – Lady of the Island [TrackList follows] – Zoho ZM 201210 [Distr. by Allegro] ****:

(Holly Hofman; Mike Wofford, John Clayton, Jeff Hamilton, Anthony Wilson)

(Andrea Brachfeld – C & alto flute; Bob Quaranta – piano & Fender Rhodes; Andy Eulau – bass; Kim Plainfield – drums; Guests: Todd Bashore – alto sax (tr.2 & 6); Chembo Corniel – congas & percussion (tr.2, 6, 8, 9); Wycliffe Gordon – trombone (tr.1, 2, 6); Yasek Manzano – trumpet (tr.2, 6, 9) Flugelhorn (tr.8); Bill O’Connell – piano (tr.1-3, 5-8); Wallace Roney – trumpet solo (tr.2) & trumpet (tr.5))

This is jazz flute virtuoso Holly Hofmanns’ 12th solo album and she decided on something a bit different for this one. Fans had been asking if she might do an entire CD of just the warm-sounding but limited range alto flute. Also, Jeff Hamilton opined that everybody in jazz seemed to be doing “blowing” albums lately and there wasn’t anything to put on during dinner or a long drive that still had some depth and detail and wasn’t just the usual “easy-listening” crap. Holly tried to make these nine tracks fit that idea and brought in some exciting guests to fill out her usual backing aggregation.

She says the nice thing about the alto flute is not only its lovely sound, but due to the limited range “you have to say more with less notes.” She does that on the tunes that include two by bassist John Clayton, one by Ray Noble, one by the late pianist Mulgrew Miller, one by her guest guitarist: Anthony Wilson, and even a closing ballad from guitarist-composer Pat Metheny. There is one Hofmann original, translated “Light of Life,” which is full of a variety of time signature changes, but one wouldn’t know it just listening. There is also an unexpected tune composer by John Williams for a 1967 Dick Van Dyke comedy, Fitzwilly. 

Altogether it does meet the needs of a great background album while at the same time being really great jazz.  If you like Holly’s style, you might want to pick up the terrific 2003 Capri CD First Date, in which she also plays alto flute, along with Ali Ryerson and the late Frank Wess, in a flute trio.

TrackList:  Jack of Hearts, Touch the Fog, Grow (for Dick Oatts), Lumiere de la Vie, Cedar Would (Tribute to Cedar Walton), The Very Thought of You, Make Me Rainbows, Soul-Leo, Farmer’s Trust


I was unfamiliar with flutist Andrea Brachfeld. Her career started in the 1970s and she was the first female flutist to play salsa music in the U.S, but she says jazz is her first love. She studied with Hubert Laws, Jimmy Heath and Mike Longo—who had been musical director for Dizzy Gillespie. She’s received several awards in the Latin jazz area. She now has five CDs out as a leader, but this is her first straight-ahead jazz album. She’s also done some composing, and four of the tracks here are her own pieces.

She had an injury some years ago which she doesn’t explain, but following that she decided to concentrate on jazz flute, which evidently she had done when she started, and now she is coming full circle. Tunes by Ellington, Herbie Hancock and her pianist on seven of these tracks—Bill O’Connell—are on the CD. The title tune is one she’s always loved, both for its simple melody and lyrics. The Flugelhorn solo here is played by a young Cuban musician, Yasek Manzano. She wrote the selection “Four Corners” after her house was cleared and evaluated by a Feng Shui master, which she says changed her life in many ways. There are some backing voices on this track and a few others, which I could frankly do without. But the great musicians Brachfeld has incorporated into her album make it a terrific listening experience, with plenty of flute for the lovers of that often denigrated jazz instrument.

TrackList:  Bebop Hanna, Eye of the Hurricane, I Got It Bad, Little Girl’s Song, Dead Ahead, Birdlike, In the Center, Lady of the Island, Four Corners

—John Henry