Geof Bradfield received a grant from the Chamber Music America's New Works: Creation and Presentation Program to compose the music heard on African Flowers, his fourth CD as a leader. The money invested in the multi-reed player proved to be an excellent investment. Prior to writing the music, Bradfield traveled to Africa, and like many jazz musicians who have journeyed overseas to hear other forms of music, he absorbed what he heard and blended influences from them with his own original ideas. Recruiting a first-rate cast of musicians, including trumpeter/flügelhornist Victor Garcia, pianist Ryan Cohen, guitarist Jeff Parker, bassist Clark Sommers, and percussionist George Fludas, the band had an opportunity to play Bradfield's music in concert a few times prior to entering the studio for a few days in the fall of 2009, resulting in performances where the players were quite comfortable with these new works. "Butare" is a lively opener suggesting a celebratory dance with the leader's playful soprano sax as its centerpiece over the driving percussion. The title of the lush ballad "The Children's Room" seems self-explanatory, suggesting proud parents beaming as they check on their sleeping children; the understated nature of the piece is beautifully interpreted by the musicians, with a focus on the rhythm section and gorgeous ensemble work featuring Bradfield on bass clarinet and Garcia's muted horn. "The Nurse From Nairobi" centers on Parker's intricate guitar solo, fueled by the potent rhythm section. Bradfield also incorporates individual tracks as solo features for piano, drums, and bass as musical segues. Africa seen through the prism of Geof Bradfield's music proves to be a delightful experience.
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AllMusic Review by Ken Dryden