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 Sunday, 20 April 2014
Anna Maria Flechero: Within the Fourteenth Hour Print E-mail
Written by Carmel DeSoto   
Sunday, 29 June 2008

Within the Fourteenth Hour

Vocalist Anna Maria Flechero is the product of a culturally rich heritage and a vibrant musical environment. Born in San Francisco of African American and Filipino ancestry, she learned to play piano by ear as a youngster, writing tunes and lyrics that reflect the influences of the sounds of Motown and the Latin rhythms of her Mission District. Moving to Japan, Flechero honed her skills as a solo artist, accompanying herself on piano, composing and performing original songs and interpreting jazz standards. While in Japan, Anna Maria met legendary pianist Cedar Walton, who provided opportunities for her to perform with his trio. It was the beginning of a long-standing musical friendship.

Now in 2008, after hundreds of performances and years of creating her own personal style, Flechero once again had the opportunity to coordinate with Walton on her self-produced sophomore release, Within the Fourteenth Hour.  This soulful recording features 10 well-placed pop and jazz standards with a bonus track being an original Flechero cut entitled “Pretty Soon.”

The journey begins with the classic standard “Misty,” fashioned into a swinging up-beat track that is personified by Flechero’s distinctive voice and R&B inflections.  This track features the incomparable Cedar Walton, David Williams and Lewis Nash.  Their symbiosis is evident from the first notes, clearly articulating an atmosphere of interaction and chemistry.  The first “A” features Williams and Nash trading rhythmically active phrases, while Walton’ s solo lines dance atop, creating interest and bounce within the spaces of Flechero’s vocals.  This symbiosis allows Flechero to command the cut with playful passages and confident scat lines that clearly punctuate the setting as being a true jazz cut.

Anna Maria Flechero
“What A Difference a Day Makes” has a Smooth Jazz/Latin overtone, extremely cross-over in nature, that shines a new light on this Grever/Adams classic, transporting you to a sunny beach with cocktails, friends and good times.  Flechero’s breezy vocals and phrasing allude to Jamaican flavors, a playful summery cut that gets you ready for the weekend.  This track features Jeffrey Chin (piano), Ron Smith (guitar), Nelson Braxton (bass), Billy Johnson (drums), Melecio Magdaluyo (sax), and the bus-driver to this track’s instrumental flavor, Karl Perazzo (percussion).  The ensemble provides a relaxed samba feel over which Magdaluyo plays a melodic and thoughtful solo.  Flechero adds nice vocal ornamentations to the last statement of the melody and the vamp out.

The Cedar Walton Trio guests once again on “God Bless the Child,” creating a strong traditional jazz interpretation of this Billy Holiday standard.  This cut gives us the chance to see an intimate, more serious side of Anna Maria’s vocals as she conveys a storyline of honesty and sincerity with each passing phrase.  Walton’s trio creates a metric modulation within the solo section, creating a nice texture change within the cut.  Flechero sells the track to the final low note while Walton, Nash and Williams delicately punctuate the final outro.  

Anna Maria Flechero
Anna Maria’s incomparable voice creates a voyage from start to finish, each song having its own specialty and flavor to truly create a diverse passage from track, to track, but it is in the final cut, “Pretty Soon,” where we get a full view of Anna’s abilities as a lyricist and composer.  Her lyrics convey a story of one who has lived through many facets of life, including the death of a loved one.  It is a song of devotion, strength and endurance.  Musically, Anna Maria has created a beautiful composition that is texturally stunning and harmonically rich.  Within the Fourteenth Hour is a CD worth adding to any music aficionado’s CD collection. Whether your desire is jazz, island, smooth-jazz, Latin, nu-soul, old soul or to heal your soul, this is the CD for you.  Take the journey Within the Fourteenth Hour.

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Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette, Somewhere (2013, ECM)
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageI didn't get a chance to listen to Somewhere until well after its release. Now I can't stop listening. It's telling that the latest album from what has been commonly dubbed the Keith Jarrett Standards Trio was released under the three names, highlighting the nature of the thirty years' collaboration among three of the most singular talents in jazz. Somewhere marks the trio's first release since recording material in 2001 that found its way onto three albums released between 2004-2009. And at that, the "new" release was recorded in 2009, live at the KKL Luzern Concert Hall in Switzerland. But it was definitely worth the wait as Somewhere proves the trio's lack of recent discography reflects no loss of empathy or ingenuity as they cover familiar standards from Miles Davis and Harold Arlen and a pair from West Side Story, as well as two from Jarrett himself.

An intertwining of Jarrett's "Deep Space" with Miles' "Solar" starts with Jarrett's solo explorations, hollow-toned sonic crystals a la Marilyn Crispell, the trio sliding delicately into "Solar" as if the intro belonged there all along. Jarrett's right hand and left hand seem to come from different minds before the trio adds a measure of swing, Peacock adding a large helping of propulsive basslines, DeJohnette taking rhythm for a ride. Jarrett has never been more dazzling. "Stars Fell on Alabama" is simply luxurious, Jarrett elegant, Peacock complimenting every note. There's traces of Monk (especially "I Mean You") throughout the trio's playful arrangement of Arlen's "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea," as each musician inserts his own quirky rhythmic alterations. (And was that really a snippet of the Andy Griffith Show theme song?)

The two Leonard Bernstein tracks give the Trio their centrifugal force, with "Somewhere" (and Jarrett's addendum "Everywhere") stretching out to nearly 20 minutes of exquisite interplay. There's so much going on worthy of comment, from Jarrett's circuitous but upwardly mobile blues to DeJohnette's a-fib heartbeats to the slowing pulse of the coda. "Tonight" is far more upbeat, even swinging, Jarrett joyriding over the highway driving of bass and drums. The Van Heusen/Mercer chestnut, "I Thought About You," closes the set, showcasing the improvisational talents of the Trio, Jarrett throwing in a side of Gershwin along the way to a sumptuous finish.

Prone to tantrums and meltdowns in live performance, Keith Jarrett still remains arguably the artist best suited to the spontaneity of live interaction, and the trio of Jarrett, Peacock and DeJohnette the epitome of collaborative improvisation. And Somewhere should be heard "Everywhere."

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Dave Douglas Quintet Moves Back and Forth in "Time Travel" (2013, Greenleaf Music)
Written by Andrea Canter, Contributing Editor   

ImageIn 2013, Dave Douglas went 50/40/20: The prolific composer and bandleader turned 50 and released his fortieth album as a leader over the past 20 years. And with his current quintet (saxophonist Jon Irabagon, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Rudy Royston), Douglas seems to have found a way to pull together his full multi-band, multi-sonic musical resumé. Sort of a follow-up to 2012's Be Still (same band sans vocalist, more hardcore modern jazz sounds), Douglas wanted "to find something that's in-between soloing and trading and playing together." Over the seven new Douglas compositions, he found something that, rather than "in-between" the group and individual, is a collaborative family where the individual serves the whole, the whole serves the individual. And it all serves the listener extremely well, with echoes of Mingus, Monk, Ellington and even Maria Schneider.

As she does throughout, Linda Oh sets a dramatic pulse on the opening "Bridge to Nowhere," the harmonic dialogue among sax and trumpet playfully dissonant as the music takes off in quirky directions. Oh and Royston make a formidable team, keeping it together while also willing to push it to the edge. Mitchell and Irabagon bring a Monk factor into sharp focus in their solos. The horns darkly introduce the more delicate title track -- perhaps this is a Sci Fi time machine? Bass and drums keep the band lurching forward on a trip that crosses alternately rugged and neatly terraced terrain as well as time. The topography--shallow pools and deep crevices--is particularly cultivated by Royston's daring imagination. "The Law of Historic Memory" is a more regal ensemble trip, Oh and Mitchell seeming to direct from darkness toward a slowly revealing light, the horns more controlled, seeking a companionship in melody and harmony that is ultimately uplifting.

"Beware of Doug" provides a feisty, tumbling dose of New Orleans as if Mingus was directing a high-wire act. It's a raucous romp for Douglas and Royston, while Irabagon and Mitchell do their own bit of time traveling before Oh launches as exciting and essential a solo as any on the album. Or so it seems until she again takes charge with a bouncy monologue on the aggressive nod to Dave's home in the "Garden State." Spare piano, dark bass and tingling cymbals set up a nursery-rhymish pairing for the horns on "Little Feet," augmented by Mitchell's solo spin. The majestic horn harmonies elevate "The Pigeon and the Pie," Irabagon and Mitchell offering perhaps the most elegant solo passages of the set. If Maria Schneider wrote for small ensembles, she might encounter this track along her journey. Time Travel can move back or ahead, and the Dave Douglas Quintet manages to balance their direction without losing a second of motion.

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