August 2018CD ReviewsFeaturedIssuesReviews

Bolling Suite (Hubert Laws, arr. Steve Barta): Album Review

In this extraordinary new release of Claude Bolling’s iconic Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio, arranger Steve Barta has created what Claude Bolling himself calls “a modern and true arrangement…A thousand bravos!”

And it’s true! The new arrangement is a true expansion of the crossover tradition that Claude Bolling launched with the original score that spent 530 weeks on the Billboard charts starting in 1975. In this arrangement the brilliant flutist Hubert Laws performs with virtuosic pianist Jeffrey Biegel, Brazilian Drummer Michael Shapiro, and Bassist Mike Velerio. In addition there is a string quartet and full orchestra with Peter Rotter, conductor.  It works beautifully.

Hubert Laws is a consummate flutist of both jazz and classical, and he brings just the right style, sound, and interpretation. The interplay between Laws and pianist Biegel is perfect, rhythmically in sync, tender, and interesting in the interpretation. Laws brings his many years as a top jazz flutist to this interpretation, so there are some wonderful new ideas for all of us to emulate, and Biegel, who is a well known classical piano soloist, plays the style as though he’s been playing jazz for years. Valerio and Shapiro are excellent partners who drive the style and rhythm subtly with calm and elan.

Barta’s arrangement really opens the piece up for me; I could hear more clearly what Bolling was trying to achieve with this melding of classical and jazz, and looking back over 40 years the piece sounds fresh and interesting for a new generation.

The cover art is equally as fun – Roger Huyssen, who did the original cover with the flute and piano sharing a bed, created the new cover, in which the flute and piano now have children-- the orchestra, and so the cover now has a complete family of orchestral instrument, truly updated!

I recommend this recording and hope you will take a listen. You can order the CD or buy and download the tracks:

Link to an interview with Steve Barta:

And one with Hubert:  where he discusses his sold out concert (and other topics) in 1978 at the Hollywood Bowl with Jean Pierre Rampal. Rampal played the Bolling and Laws played Mozart Andante, among other music.


--Barbara Siesel

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