Many artists seem to find their voice with their third recording, and Beckett is another case-in-point. His previous two CDs, 2002s Black Eyes on Wolfe Tones Records, and Traveling West on Summit Records in 2004, were both high quality productions, but Flute Vibes finds Beckett really coming into his own, both as soloist and arranger. The whole project, from the selection of the material to the execution of the arrangements, reveals Beckett's thoughtful craftsmanship.
It has been a pet peeve of mine for some time that jazz artists often try to use all original material on their early recordings, before the quality of their writing really warrants this, especially when there is a wealth of material by established artists that rarely gets heard. Beckett has avoided this trap. The program presented here includes just one of his own compositions, the title tune and one by another group member, flugelhorn player Graham Bruce. The rest are all interesting, rarely heard compositions by such artists as Wayne Shorter :"The Soothsayer" (pianists Richie Beirach), "Broken Wing" (Hal Galper), "Pamela's Passion," Mal Waldron, "Blue Gene," and Walter Bishop Jr., "Coral Keys" (arranger Don Sebesky), "I Remember Bill", -- and guitarist Jim Hall--, "Two's Blues." Beckett has also had the courage to reproduce a track, "Bimbie Blue" by virtuoso flutist Hubert Laws. Sensitively arranged into a nicely balanced program, by turns boppish and Latin-oriented, plus ballads and blues, with slightly different instrumental combinations on each track, including some judicious overdubbing in places, the result is a recording that sustains interest throughout. More importantly, the material has been carefully chosen to suit the particular needs of the flute.
There are those who still maintain that the flute is not a bona fide jazz instrument. What they mean is that the instrument can be lost in the wrong acoustic context. The right material, adapted to the instrument, can yield results that add a fresh dimension to the jazz genre. Herbie Mann's solution to this puzzle was to add a conga player, Hubert Laws' to adapt classical literature. Beckett's approach is to find a variety of material that he can arrange with a flute lead, and then to add the right sidemen. All the players here are well-known in the Bay Area but less well-known nationally, only because of the New York orientation of the jazz media. Beckett's charts are executed precisely and sensitively, and the soloists equip themselves admirably, most notable being Bruce's warm-toned flugelhorn and von Buchau's crisp vibraphone. Heckman's tenor and Udolph's piano also shine, and Masterson's harmonica pops up to add a fresh color on a couple of tracks. As for Beckett, his dynamic lines sweep away any idea of the flute not being a jazz instrument.
Gerald Beckett is another example of a 'local' artist deserving of greater recognition on the national level. You can move this process along by buying this recording.