Riding along a Razor’s Edge or Gliding over Brittle Ice
The Englishman Geoff Warren represents perhaps better than anyone else, the flautist’s artistry of the 21st century. Herbie Mann, Yusef Lateef, Eric Dolphy or even Jeremy Steig, the fathers of the modern jazz flute, but also rock musicians such as Ian Andersen or even Jimi Hendrix created the foil, the instrumental diversity, the wood, out of which Geoff Warren carved out this solo album. Following the albums for solo guitar with Enver Izmailov (Tutu CD 888142) and Hamiet Bluiett’s solo run on the baritone saxophone Walkin’ & Talkin’ (Tutu CD 888 172) Tutu Records now proudly presents its third solo album with Geoff Warren’s Flute Fables to an international public – a daring thing to do; for how many aspects can a solo album of pure transverse flute contain? Most will expect a certain monotony or even academic contortions. Flute Fables will disabuse them of such notions. The universality of the music is astonishing – with a reserved eloquence, unobtrusively setting careful and frugal accents, both unexpected and spectacular.
It’s not just the deep experience of time and space it’s got, there’s also a certain magic to this album, a fifth dimension, if you like. Warren maintains the tension between improvisation and the bounds of composition proficiently - in constant balance; whenever tedium might threaten, something unexpected happens. Which is why Warren’s solo flute album is a daring ride – like one along a razor’s edge. Flute Fables makes you feel there’s someone at work here, who is able to express with some immediacy something like astonishment at his own capacities. It’s about making dreams and stories accessible, the symbolic appropriation of these, found anchored deep in English folk tradition – which is where he’s from.
It always seems to come upon you like an elegant dribble, light as a feather, skating on thin ice; ranging from the expressive improvisation of free narrative art to that of polyphonic concert; from the mastery of his instrument to the discipline of improvisation, sometimes gently giving himself up to a legato stream, sometimes to a piercing staccato.
Like the tradition of the instrument itself, Flute Fables comprises three hundred years of western culture, from the baroque minuet to the electronic alienation effects of Jimi Hendrix and his timeless, unorthodox guitar phrasing. Not only are the deep roots in English Folk, the ‘dorian’ and ‘mixoldian’ modes in evidence, but also the skilful enrichment, the integration of ethnic, mostly oriental elements, such as Warren could develop in his work with Enver Izmailov and Badal Roy; a good example of how fruitful the eclectic in jazz - rightly apprehended - can be. Geoff Warren’s performance lights fireworks, a “flautissimo” – to coin a word – of manifold sound colours to form a brilliant kaleidoscope. What holds it all together is the spirit of the jazz man Geoff Warren; a spirit that breathes improvisation, but also doesn’t forget rhythm ‘n’ melody and sweet harmony.