Walter Bell and the L.J.U.: In Three Places at Once

Flutist Walter Bell’s album In Three Places at Once is something of a musical triptych in that it is a complete work divided into three discrete units. The album is comprised of three sets, each recorded in a different venue with a different ensemble. The only constant is Bell’s agile and inventive flute work.

The first set, recorded in-studio, has the relaxed, spontaneous feel of a live performance, especially on the swinging Bell original “95 North to Philly” and a rollicking take on the Gershwins’ “A Foggy Day in London Town.” On Rodgers and Hammerstein’s show tune “Something Wonderful,” singer Ruth Naomi Floyd turns in a pleasant performance, but Bell’s presence is so understated that he seems nearly absent from his own track.

Set two, recorded live at Washington, D.C.’s B.E.T. on Jazz Supper Club, includes a vigorous rethinking of Miles Davis’ “So What?”-paired with the Ellington-Strayhorn standard “Satin Doll”-as well as a sprightly jam on “The Girl From Ipanema.” The third set was recorded at Philadelphia’s Latin Jazz Carnivale and, not surprisingly, possesses a strong Latin flavor. The standout track here is a graceful “I’ll Remember April,” which features fiery soloing from pianist Benito Gonzalez.

For some reason, the audience is barely audible during most of the live numbers, so there’s an odd lack of response to the music. It would have been interesting to hear how the bands might have harnessed a crowd’s energy to bring already dynamic performances to even greater heights.