Ryerson has released over a dozen jazz albums since the 1980s, toured extensively in the USA, Canada, Europe, Japan and Africa, and has performed at Carnegie Hall and at major jazz festivals, including the Monterey Jazz Festival, the JVC in New York, and the Guinness and Edinburgh Festivals in Scotland. She has worked with such diverse talents as Dr. Billy Taylor, Kenny Barron, Stephane Grappelli, Frank Wess, Red Rodney, Laurindo Almeida, Art Farmer, Maxine Sullivan, Roy Haynes, Julius Baker, and Luciano Pavarotti. She gives clinics and master classes in locations from California to Italy, and is head of the jazz committee for the National Flute Association, with whom she recently unveiled the first ever jazz flute big band. In this case, she was chosen to be the first national artist to record with a new record label, Sweet Jazz Recordings, which is associated with the Jazz Corner at Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. (www.thejazzcorner.com)
Opened in 1999, The Jazz Corner is the brainchild and lifelong dream of trombonist Bob Masteller -- a well-known figure in the Hilton Head area, who is heard here sitting in on "Just Friends" -- and is designed as an ideal environment for the presentation and enjoyment of jazz. Everything about this live recording seems to indicate that Masteller has been successful; the sound quality is excellent, the audience appears to be attentive, and the comments that can be overheard from time to time suggest that the musicians are having a blast.
Ryerson is heard with a trio, herself plus guitarist Howard Paul and bassist George Shek. Paul, the President of Benedetto Guitars, has led his own groups since 1992, working regularly with legendary bassist Ben Tucker in the Savannah area. He also hosts the house band at The Jazz Corner where he serves on the advisory board. Shek is a veteran performer who has worked with Ryerson on many occasions when he was living in New York city. It is not a working group, so has limited, if any, rehearsal time. But they work well together, limiting themselves to a fairly standard repertoire. The absence of a drummer I assume to be the result of economic, rather than musical considerations.
No matter; the group works well without it. Not every drummer knows how to accompany a flutist effectively. Paul and Shek combine to provide all the accompaniment Ryerson needs. Ali herself is, by turn, hard swinging ("Speak Low", "Lullaby of Birdland"), eloquent ("My One and Only Love"), and lyrical ("Emily"). "Body and Soul" and Joe Henderson's "Recordame" (also known as "No Me Esqueca") have a Latin feel (as far as is possible without a percussionist.) "Alone Together" benefits from some lively counterpoint from the trio while "Just Friends" wraps things up with Bob Masteller exercising a club owner's prerogative and sitting in. He is no slouch on the fluegelbone. Throughout, Ryerson demonstrates her gorgeous tone and telling turn of phrase on both flute and alto flute. Paul is busy and enthusiastic. Shek is a rock.
This is essential listening for any jazz flute enthusiast. Even more so for those who dislike the instrument; if anyone can change their minds it is Ali Ryerson.