Lori Bell is a San Diego flute virtuoso whose roots actually lie in New York City, and her latest recording, "Brooklyn Dreaming," featuring the top-shelf Los Angeles rhythm section of pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist Katie Thiroux and drummer Matt Witek, reveals a master of the mainstream at the absolute top of her game.
"Brooklyn Dreaming" celebrates the blues in all shades -- from the lithe musicality of Mingus’ “Nostalgia in Times Square,” to her own, similarly titled, “Times Squared.” Bell deftly exploits blues ideology with a warm, liquid sound and modern intervallic improvisation (including a quote from Dolphy’s “Gazzelloni”) for startling effect.
Burning tempos proliferate, and Hendelman’s baroque input on “52nd Street Theme” leads to an explosive exchange of fours with Witek, whose muscularity bristles all over this disc. Bell’s luxuriant alto flute is also consistently gorgeous, with furiously swinging improvisation on “Streets of New York,” which also leans heavily on Hendelman’s articulate virtuosity.
Thiroux’s bass follows in the oak-solid tradition of Ray Brown, and throughout the album, her sound and ideas are inspiring. Emotion meets intellect on the title track, which includes the lush exploration of Bell’s zaftig alto flute and a beautifully lyrical piano essay from Hendelman.
"Brooklyn Dreaming" serves as a calling card for those unaware of Bell’s considerable prowess on the instrument, and it’s a career defining moment for the longtime San Diego musical treasure.
Robert Bush is a freelance jazz writer who has been exploring the San Diego improvised music scene for more than 30 years. Follow him on Twitter @robertbushjazz. Visit The World According to Rob.