Jazz Flute

Thanks to my friend Brian’s blog of yesterday, I was thinking about songs that live in my head in perpetuity, and I remembered this one.  My college flute teacher, Norm, brought out this record to consider as repertoire for me to play in my senior recital.  It was kismet.  I grew up with this record.  Every day, for months, my mom put it on in the morning and we ate Cheerios to the upbeat sounds of Claude Bolling’s Jazz Suite.  It featured Jean Pierre Rampal on flute, a drummer, a bassist and the inimitable Bolling himself, composer and jazz pianist extraordinaire.

This (above) is the second movement.  It’s easily the most gorgeous of them all.  I’ve played 5 of the 7 movements.  One is for bass flute and one is for alto flute.  I never performed those but I knew them like the back of my hand because I’d heard them over and over again.

It was so strange when Norm put it on.  To me, it felt like I was finally getting to do something grownup. Forget Mozart concertos and bizarro, late Romantic period pieces.  Forget the modernistic, Freddy Krueger music with squeaky-high arpeggios.  This was from the 1970s!  And you can very much tell it when you listen to it. It seemed like my life had looped, if you will, my very early childhood intersecting with my young adulthood.  Surreal.

Even now, as I listen to a 30-year-old recording, I think, Rampal perfectly blends his tone with the piano, which can be a  pretty staid instrument, so you can’t tell which is which.  Listen to how they “give” to each other, the percussion section fading into the background, the drummer’s brushes softly keeping time.  One instrument dominates, then falls back so the other can have its say.  It’s wonderful, playtime for musicians.  No prima donnas here.

My accompanist for my senior recital was the mother of a fellow student.  She was very nice and rocked the condensed scores of concertos and the like.  She was a master at classical music.  This jazz piece, however, threw her.  She did it.  But you have to “feel” jazz.  It’s either in you or it isn’t.  You can count the notes and do the syncopation.  Or you can jump in.  She was clunky – note-perfect – but awkward.  I much preferred  Brian who rehearsed with me during my lessons when she was unavailable, since we had to pay for her time.  He got it.  He is an amazing musician and we had a great time.  But he had his own degree to pursue; a piano major himself, he had his own pieces to perfect.

To celebrate my mom’s 70th birthday, my brother, a pianist friend of ours/PSU student and I got together and played this.  We also got together again, our pirate trio, and played for a wedding of a co-worker of mine.  We played the first and second movement then, too, I believe.  They dovetail nicely into each other.  I think my friend’s betrothed walked down the aisle (well, pseudo-aisle, since it was on Sauvie’s Island and outdoors by a tree) to “Sentimentale”.

So this song and its suite members have great memories attached for me. A couple of my dorm mates, hearing me play it, wanted me to play “Sentimentale” for their impending weddings.  Hearing it again, I’m awash in great feelings and remembering trying to get enough sound out of instruments when there was no electricity for my co-worker’s wedding.  I remember the bridesmaids, attired in pink and green, arriving by hay truck.  And how music brings people  together.


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