Renee Rosnes' sixth Blue Note CD shows her stretching well past her hard bop roots. Joined by bassist Scott Colley and husband Billy Drummond on drums, she covers a wide swath of musical styles. Her aggressive attack on Ornette Coleman's "Blues Connotation" contrasts with her laid back richly textured treatment of the old Beatles hit "With A Little Help From My Friends." Richard Bona adds some intriguing percussion to her inspired arrangement of Duke Elllington's rarely heard "Fleurette Africaine," and her approach to Bartok's "Children's Song No. 3" displays the trio's rhythmic gifts. "Ancient Footprints," a new version of Wayne Shorter's "Footprints" with lyric added by Kitty Margolis, is swinging hard bop with the tension of an uptempo African tribal chant and also features guest Dianne Reeves's strong vocals. The pianist's rollicking "Romp" and her joyful "Little Spirit" (dedicated to her infant son) are memorable works as well.
- Ken Dryden (All Music Guide)
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Of the many tests that face the creative artist, that of artfully and soulfully expressing the scope of one's realities and life experiences, is most challenging and ultimately most rewarding. The choice of musical material plays a major role in this quest and jazz music being a particularly collaborative form, makes the choice of musical partners another key decision. While it's difficult to be objective concerning my own talent, imagination, and vision, I can easily attest to the varied gifts of my peers on this recording as well as provide some thoughts on the compositions. I have found in bassist Scott Colley and drummer Billy Drummond a spirit of empathetic musical kinship that is always stimulating and full of surprises. I have played in different contexts with Scott over the past few years and Billy (who is also my husband) for more than a decade. They are both extremely generous and attentive musicians. Scott, Billy and I have also been graced by the presence of two very special guests. Vocalist Dianne Reeves is in possession of an impressive range, marvelous phrasing and a total command of her instrument. Equally, her sincere spirituality informs every note and she is a joy to accompany. Richard Bona is a multi-talented vocalist, electric bassist and percussionist whose work here (exclusively on percussion) is sensitive and soulful. As for the repertoire, the opener Blues Connotation is a cunning Ornette line based on an eleven and a half bar blues. There is a lot of playful conversation within the trio. It's amazing when one thinks of the uproar caused by Ornette's writing and playing when he first hit the scene in the fifties. Today, in view of the full spectrum of jazz and all it's idiomatic manifestations, the melody of Blues Connotation sounds relatively 'mainstream'. With A Little Help From My Friends is a familiar Beatles' tune that I remember my older sisters listening to when I was very young. I recall playing it by ear for my friends at elementary school, long before I was introduced to jazz. Recently, it occurred to me that a slower treatment of the melody with a few reharmonizations, might have a favorable result.
I first heard the Gordon Jenkins classic Goodbye on one of my favorite recordings, "Only The Lonely" (Capitol 1958), when I was collecting Sinatra albums in my late teens. The song always haunted me. Often times during recording dates, musicians will play something that's not part of the scheduled repertoire, just for enjoyment, which is what happened with this version. It was the end of the day, we had a few minutes left, and the impromptu performance is presented here. Not long after I moved to New York, I had the honor of playing Footprints with its composer, Wayne Shorter. For this arrangement, we added the powerful vocals of Dianne, whom I first met at the Mt. Fuji Jazz Festival in Japan in 1986, and have been a fan ever since. I really enjoy her melodic vocalizations on the opening and ending vamps. Footprints also features Richard on various African percussion, driving the groove. In celebration of Duke Ellington's 1OOth birthday, I decided to record the lesser known Fleurette Africaine or "Little African Flower" which was composed and debuted on Ellington's 1963 trio collaboration with Charles Mingus and Max Roach: "Money Jungle." In Duke's words: "La Fleurette Africaine is a little African flower. The jungle, to Africans, is a place deep in the forest where no human being has ever ventured, and this little flower was growing right in the middle of it, miles away from human eyes in the central part of the jungle that is God-made and untouched. The little flower just grew prettier and prettier everyday." On this arrangement, Bona's kalimba motif represents the little flower that Duke speaks of.
After composing Romp, the flavor of the melody line distinctively reminded me of the playing of Steve Kuhn (affectionately known as Dr. K.) who is not only a wonderful friend but is one of the great pianists of our time, hence the dedication. Billy and Scott get into some high spirited play during their solos. Lazy Afternoon is a gem that I've loved for a long time, and aside from a few instrumental arrangements (most notably Joe Henderson's on "Power to the People"), I've always felt that it was more compelling with the addition of the lyric. Dianne's heartfelt interpretation creates a very intimate mood to savor. In celebration of the arrival of our beautiful baby son, Dylan Robert Drummond, who was eight months old at the time of this session, I composed the next piece. Little Spirit. Dylan is a new source of joy and inspiration for both Billy and myself.
Since my introduction to Brazilian music in my early twenties, I have been a devoted fan of the idiom. The composer of Sanfona, Egberto Gismonti, recorded it several times in diverse contexts. For this arrangement, the melody stands alone until near the end where the piece opens up into an inventive bass solo from Scott. The "sanfona" is actually an old Indian instrument resembling the sound of the accordion.
The simple melody that makes up Children's Song No. 3 was taken from a volume of Bela Bartok children's pieces based on Hungarian Folk Tunes that I used to practice when I was about five years old. Although this particular composition stays in one harmonic mode, I found myself attracted to the works of composers such as Bartok, Kabalevsky and Shostakovich, very early on in my musical development due to their expanded use of harmony and rhythm. I had no idea back then, that my interest would lead me years later, on to Ellington, Ornette and Shorter among numerous others. They have all contributed to my art and soul.
- Renee Rosnes