Andrea Brachfeld - High Falutin' Latin Jazz
Listening to Andrea Brachfeld and Son Charanga's Back with Sweet Passion album is like investing in a time machine. You're going back to the late 1960s or early 1970s when you set the CD to repeat play.
There's little to find fault with in Back with Sweet Passion, with its stylish, traditionally Latin rhythms and the courtly bob of lite sound of flute that pervades the entire performance. While there are actually no stars on this disc, there would be no music without the lilting call of the flute and its incredible range of emotions. The lead singer creeps in among the instrumentals at times, most notably in the energetic "Fajardo Medley," lending a hot salsa sound to the band. A great band.
MP3 clips from "Back with Sweet Passion"
"Descarga Son Charanga" - "Almendra"
"Tu No Sospechas" - "Fajardo Medley"
While you wouldn't call flutist Andrea Brachfeld's follow-up CD, Remembered Dreams, a Latin album necessarily, there are very strong elements of Latin jazz coursing through this 45 minute CD, most notably the opening track, "Le Metro J" which contains some fine conga and percussion work from Louis Bauzo. The spry flute and dancing piano make this mambo number one of the most arresting of the set.
Both albums have movement, fine production values and a sense of sunshine about them that will make them ill-fitted to night listens. Between the cha-cha-chas and the bossa nova and sweet ballads, there is little a new age/Latin jazz lover won't find embedded in these cool choice of moods.
Her style of blow is not breathy, but lite and intelligent, responding to the upbeat musical world around her. She's joined by some fine instrumentalists on Remembered Dreams, including Taurey Butler who taps out a mean solo in the 6-minute 'Osiana.' This is a song comprised of many parts and grows on your soul like nuclear ivy, progressing and reaching out among the clicks of Chuggy Carter's happy-handed percussion playing.
MP3 clips from "Remembered Dreams"
"Quatemala’s Dance" - "Remembered Dreams"
"Latin Sunset" - "Afra Jade
But how did such Brachfeld talent arise? Andrea tells the story:
"I started to take piano lessons at age 6 and soon after that my piano teacher, Mr. Janowski, told my mother that I had a lot of rhythm and I could probably play jazz. When I was 10, I started to study the flute in school. I preferred the flute as I was not forced to practice the flute. I was accepted into the High School of Music and Art in 1969 on the piano; but since there were so many pianists they asked me if I could play another instrument, so I played a little flute and they said I was in. At age 16, I formed my first Jazz quartet and played my first gig at St. Peter's Church, the Jazz Church in Manhattan. I grew up in Spring Valley, New York. From there we moved to France for a year, then back to Manhattan. I moved around a lot after that and eventually settled in New Jersey."
The fact that her label is called Latin Cool obviously illustrates in which direction Andrea's jazz roots were growing.
"I think that since statistics show that Hispanics are the fastest growing 'minority' ethnic group in the country right now, it's about time that the music which has been supported by the culture for many years be given the exposure and respect it deserves. This music is part of the culture in the sense that dancing is an integral part of the culture. Many other ethnic groups have appreciated this music for many years and the fact that the music is finally being recognized in the mainstream is wonderful as it has been a part of most of my adult and musical life for a long time."
And yet there is a lighter side to Andrea's wailing, wordless songs that goes far beyond simply the use of flute rather than, say, electric guitar or sax. Andrea admits, "The purpose for me to play music has always been to heal myself and to heal those whom I am able to reach. I would like to share this mind set with my music."
And she's working hard at it. While she has already released two CDs this year, she shows no signs of slowing down. "I would like to continue to play, compose, and study music as I am now doing. I would also like to do this full time so I can devote more time to my art."
As for influences, her first on the flute was Eric Dolphy. "Then Hubert Laws was my hero. I have been very lucky to have Dave Valentin as a friend, mentor, and brother, so he would also be considered my hero." She's also had the likes of Frank and Jay Clayton, Charles Eubanks, Adam Nusbaum, Peter Fish, Jeff Andrews, Rob Schneiderman, Kenwood Dennard, Mark Helias, Frank Stagnitto, and Tom Whaley in her groups; and has opened for biggies Gary Burton, Paco Lucia and Chick Corea. She still performs around New York, when not busy with yet another album.
Her composition style is that of a master. In fact, it's hard to believe some of these highly catchy tunes aren't covers of classics, especially after a few listens. No, says Andrea, but "on my CD, Back With Sweet Passion, I decided to do mostly covers but I arranged the music to add a touch of my own flavor to fit my style of playing. I also wanted to reenter the Charanga market with music people knew and eventually do more originals."
But Andrea may get more enjoyment out of fluting all over the world. She's played in Cuba, the National Flute Convention in Dallas, Texas, and back to Cuba in the Jazz Plaza 2002 Festival where she continues to increase her audience. "Since I was lucky enough to have played with many wonderful bands in the 70's and 80's, I would say that my primary fan base are those people from my generation, men and women included. I would also like to hope that I am acquiring more fans in the younger generation in order to inspire the younger musicians, especially women, to go out there and pursue their dreams without any fear of success or failure."
If you want to catch her soon, go to Gonzalez y Gonzalez on September 18th and 25th and keep an eye out for her at more clubs in and around The City. You can always check out her website at www.phoenixrisingmusic.com for the current itinerary, or visit her label, Latin Cool Records at www.latincool.com.
* September 17 - with Phoenix Rising
Willy's Steak House, NYC
* September 18 - with Son Charanga
Gonzalez y Gonzalez, NYC
* September 25 - with Son Charanga
Gonzalez y Gonzalez, NYC
* September 26 - with Phoenix Rising
Reflections Jazz Lounge, NJ
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