Saturday, November 21, 2009
Jane BUNNETT - Red Dragonfly (aka Tombo) 2004
And I don't just mean the gorgeous Ms. Bunnett, reigning queen of jazz soprano saxophone and flute.
Red Dragonfly is certainly the most beautiful thing she's ever done. Careful attention has been paid to the smallest detail, from the stunning photos, to the ravishing packaging, to the inclusion of the Pendercki String Quartet. She's on a new label, the New Agey Narada. Hey, if Michael Brecker can sign with Heads Up, I've got no complaint with Jane Bunnett recording for this outfit, especially since they do such a wonderful job of presenting and packaging this delightful music.
Her flute's on the shelf here, and I must say, I've always wanted to hear her playing soprano sax exclusively, which, I believe, is her better instrument. Husband Larry Cramer's on board (as usual) with his distinct trumpet/flugelhorn sound. The great Kieran Overs once again brilliantly holds down the bass chair, but there's a couple of newcomers at piano (David Virelles) and drums (Mark McLean), and they make all the difference, especially the former, who contributes not only great piano stylings but also some very tasty arrangements. The inclusion of The Pendercki String Quartet was a brilliant move. They lend not only a stark and entirely apposite romanticism, but also a richness and depth of mood and timbre seldom encountered on jazz recordings.
With a program featuring a Brazilian number ("Odira-E"), a couple of Japanese songs ("Red Dragonfly" and "Moon Over Ruined Castle"), two of Canadian folk tunes ("She's Like a Swallow" and "Un Canadien Errant," memorably recorded by fellow Canadians Ian and Sylvia in the sixties), three from Cuba ("Maria La O," "Rabo de Nube," and "Divule Oni"), an Appalachian tune ("Black Is the Color," brilliantly reconfigured into 5/4 time), Jim Pepper's classic "Witchi Tia To," given a very straightforward reading that brings out its mournful/sanguine qualities, a South African song ("Nkosi Sikelel'i Africa," warmly conjuring both the great Abdullah Ibrahim and Bheki Mseleku) and a Bunnett original ("Heaven's Gate"), this is world/chamber/folk-jazz of the highest order.
The band has an uncanny ability to nail the heart of these wildly differing musics, making it hard to choose favorites among such a spectacular lineup; but diehard Jim Pepper fanatic that I am, I'm partial to "Witchi Tia To," here rendered with such grace of line and heartfelt emotion that it quickly becomes the standard by which all other interpretations must be measured. "Nkosi Sikelel'i Africa," the South African number, again played with a simplicity and sincerity entirely befitting its dedicatees, also shines brightly. And Ms. Bunnett has such a natural feel for the rhythms and sonorities of Cuban music that the numbers from that Caribbean Island country have a special quality about them as well. In fact, the more I listen to this disc, the more I'm pretty much just sitting here blown away by its glorious magnificence. Certainly there's not a weak number in the bunch, and this band just goes from strength to strength.
This is the music that Jane Bunnett was born to make. Always someone worth hearing, here she has immortalized herself with a disc of sustained splendor.
Just do it.
By Jan P. Dennis.
One of the finest soprano saxophonists in jazz of the 1990s, Jane Bunnett originally studied classical piano but tendonitis cut short that career. After seeing the Charles Mingus group in San Francisco, Bunnett was inspired to play advanced jazz. On soprano, she recalls Steve Lacy a bit (who she has studied with), while her flute playing is quite distinctive. Bunnett has always had major players on her records: in addition to her husband, trumpeter Larry Cramer, the late pianist Don Pullen had been a fixture on her records; her 1988 debut for Dark Light also featured Dewey Redman; and she utilized Sheila Jordan and Jeanne Lee.
Bunnett has recorded for Dark Light, Music & Arts (a series of duets with Pullen), and Denon. Her most adventurous work is 1991's Spirits of Havana, which matches her playing with many of Cuba's top jazz musicians in Cuba. Jane Bunnett moved to Paris in the mid-'90s.
Bunnett continued to record Afro-Cuban jazz throughout the 90's, releasing several critically acclaimed discs for Blue Note records. In 2002, Bunnett took a brief sabbatical from Afro Cuban music and released Spirituals & Dedications, highlighting her interest in both traditional gospel and modern compostions with spiritual themes by Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Stanely Cowell and Charles Mingus.
By Scott Yanow, All Music Guide.
Jane Bunnett- Sax (Soprano),
Larry Cramer- Trumpet, Flugelhorn)
Kieran Overs- Bass (Acoustic)
Jeremy Bell- Violin
Simon Fryer- Cello
Mark McLean- Drums
Jerze Kaplanek- Violin
David Virelles- Piano
Christine Vlajk- Viola
01. Odira-E 7:24
02. Red Dragonfly (AKA Tombo) 5:46
03. Heaven's Gate 5:59
04. Black Is The Colour (American Traditional, Appalachian) 4:47
05. Witchi Tia To (adaptation, Navajo Peyote Chant) 5:41
06. Maria La O 4:23
07. She's Like A Swallow 7:03
08. Rabo De Nube 4:32
09. Divule Oni 4:31
10. Nikosi Sikelel'i Africa 7:00
11. Moon Over Ruined Castle 5:37
12. Un Canadien Errant (Wandering Canadian) 4:25