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Ali Ryerson: Con Brio!

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Ali Ryerson’s flute playing, Pete Levin’s arrangements and noted sidemen combine to make this album artistically satisfying as well as commercially viable. The ensemble sound is contemporary, the recording quality reminiscent of CTI label productions of the 1970s. Ryerson’s sidemen include Levin on keyboards, Mike Mainieri on vibes, Mike DeMicco on guitar, Mark Egan on electric bass and Danny Gottlieb on drums.

Ryerson’s playing is both perky and willowy, and there are fleeting references to flutists Hubert Laws and Jeremy Steig, both of whom recorded for CTI. But you would not mistake her for either. She conveys an independent spirit, evident not only in her playing but also in her choice of tunes: Satie’s “1st Gymnopédie” (in a Modern Jazz Quartet bag at times), Levin’s “Another Time, Another Place” (a folksy/sylvan, classical-type melody), Levin’s title tune (a funky, CTI-ish groove), “Where Flamingos Fly” (an exotic reworking of Gil Evans’ arrangement from his Out of the Cool album) and “You Don’t Know What Love Is” (a moody and swinging flute-and-vibes duet), among them. Ryerson’s improvisations breathe, and she has a range of attacks, from seductive and breathy to acutely rhythmic and birdlike.

Levin’s charts get lots of color from the guitar-vibes-piano/electric piano-bass-drums ensemble. Egan’s rubbery electric bass sustain, deep on the bottom, is juxtaposed against Ryerson’s lead on top, with light and dark harmonies in the middle and Gottlieb cooking, commenting and complementing masterfully in the groove department. There’s a lot of experience in the group-Mainieri with Steps Ahead, Levin with Gil Evans for 15 years, DeMicco with the Brubeck Brothers, and Egan and Gottlieb with Pat Metheny-and they know exactly what to put in and what to leave out.

Originally Published