Women rank high as some of the finest unsung influences and innovators in jazz. Their contributions to America's music are seldom highlighted; however, be that as it may, it is high time that we do discuss what women in jazz contribute. As we have looked upon the contributions of women, the topics are usually those of vocalists. There is more to focus upon about women than just a beautiful voice, some of them play instruments, such as flautist Althea Rene' for instance. I recently discovered this phenomenal talent's CD 'Chocolate Rush' strictly by accident. After listening to her work, I have to say this lady's flute playing ability is beyond compare.
Having come from a musical and talented family while growing up in Detroit, Michigan, Althea Rene started out as a classically trained flautist, who just happens to have chosen jazz as a passionate embrace. As a child, she also watched her father's musical career gel as a sideman with numerous Motown stars. Influenced by Hubert Laws and Yusef Lateef, Althea studied music while attending Howard University in Washington D.C., and performed for many years with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra until discovering jazz and popular music as a professional pursuit. Since leaving the classical arena, Rene' has performed with Najee, Art Porter, Jerald Daemyon, Tony Bennett, Pete Escovedo, Shelia E., and Herbie Mann. In recent years, Rene' began touring with the all female jazz group Straight Ahead. When violinist Regina Carter the group, Althea stepped in to take her place. Regina is a product of Detroit as well. Since her arrival on the national jazz scene, Rene' has become highly regarded as one of the finest flautists in jazz today. Her latest CD is reflective of those accolades.
'Chocolate Rush' is the latest addition to Althea Rene's career. Listening to this lady for the very first time after receiving her CD, I found her to be an overwhelming jazz activated sound energy ray of excitement. This recording is a compilation of 12 exceptional tracks filled with high end grooves and reflective songs revisited. Althea accepts the challenge of applying her own voice to an instrument made famous by the male contemporaries who preceded her. This CD is funky and melodic in style, while leaning towards the contemporary soul jazz influences of the 1970s on some tracks. 'Chocolate Rush' is refreshingly effervescent and displays a variety of Rene's multi-faceted skills as a musician. One of the things she does is strategically using a "voice-box" to showcase her singing and screaming sound effects. She does this through her flute simultaneously while playing. As I listened to this second recording from Althea Rene', I got the sense the jazz world is about to be taken by storm. In my mind, I do believe 'Chocolate Rush' and Althea Rene' are great additions to any jazz collection.