By Bobby Reed | Published May 2018
In the promotional materials for her new album, the flutist Andrea Brachfeld says, “If you want to play jazz, you have to be able to get the articulation of Charlie Parker, to make the instrument sound like a trumpet or saxophone. With a lot of flute players, I don’t hear those articulations.”
As evidenced on If Not Now, When?, Brachfeld’s playing has a muscular flair and bite. She’s not here merely to make “pretty” flute music; she’s here to dig deep. (Eric Dolphy was an early influence.) But that’s not to say she’s incapable of crafting the type of romanticism that many fans traditionally have expected from a flutist. For Brachfeld, a beautiful timbre is not enough; a pleasant tone must be in service of an engaging instrumental narrative. A great example is “Deeply I Live,” which combines Brachfeld’s lovely, breathy lines with an intricate flurry of boppish fury, as well as fine solos from bassist Harvie S and drummer Jason Tiemann—and, most importantly, compositional acumen. The 10-minute, multi-part tune conveys a sonic journey and demonstrates the compositional chops that earned Brachfeld a grant from Chamber Music America’s 2017 New Jazz Works program (funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation). The grant provided a boost that helped her complete this album, which features nine original songs and a splendid rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
The band also includes Brachfeld’s longtime collaborator Bill O’Connell (piano), who augments the leader’s elegant sense of drama, merging thrilling escapades with carefully placed respites. In one portion of “Anima Mea,” Brachfeld plays at a slower tempo than her bandmates, building a dramatic arc of musical tension that is resolved in brilliant fashion. This band’s balance of taut cohesion and adventurous improvisation is mighty impressive.
On May 18 (the date of the album’s release), Brachfeld, O’Connell, Tiemann and Harvie S will perform two sets at Trumpets Jazz Club in Montclair, New Jersey. The same lineup will play at New York’s Triad Theater on June 18.