In the Moment
In a genre dominated by saxophones, guitars and pianos, smooth jazz does have its small circle of flutists carrying on the work of Herbie Mann, Hubert Laws, Tim Weisberg and others—most notably Nestor Torres and Alexander Zonjic. Althea Rene, with her third CD, looks ready to join the group at the top while carving out her own niche, that of sensual, R&B grooves with a distinctly urban feel. Her latest shows a remarkable consistency of laid-back, quiet-storm intensity with memorable melodies and sprightly, compelling playing.
In the Moment is a smooth-jazz flute album for those who can’t imagine sitting through a dozen flute songs in a row. Rene varies the mood just right. There’s the picture-perfect smooth/urban title track, the hip-hop funk of “Midday Grind” and the ’70s-cool vibe of “When You’re Around.” Rene can sing, too, which adds even more flavor. And it helps that her husky voice is remarkably similar to that of the reclusive Sade on the tracks “More Than You Know” and the reggae track “One Night Love Affair.”
Her two covers are gems. On Beyonce’s “Me, Myself, & I” Rene’s vocals are softer and lighter. And with the breezy, percussion-driven “Number One,” the flutist nabs a gem from Patricia Rushen’s “Straight From the Heart,” keeping the irresistible Brazilian-tinged vocal scatting and reminding us that “Forget Me Nots” wasn’t the only great tune from that breakout album.