Joel Brandon: Haven't We All...?
Joel Brandon holds a unique place in the music world. Not only is he a whistler, but he does so by inhaling. However, he should not be considered as a novelty act. Joel Brandon does not rely on cheap tricks; he uses his gift as a real instrument. And he does not let it eclipse his talent as a flautist either.
A former member of the AACM, Joel Brandon, who gets here a rare opportunity to lead a session, chose to present his accessible side. The mood is upbeat for the most part, and soulful and beautiful melodies abound. The recording features original compositions rounded up with John Coltrane's "Countdown" and Duke Ellington's "In A Sentimental Mood", the two performed as sensitive duos with the overlooked and creative Kirk Brown on piano.
The Master Whistler, as he labels himself, surrounded himself with a fine cast: pianist Willie Pickens, bassist Harrison Bankhead, percussionist Famadou Don Moye, drummer Morris Jennings and the late great Billy Higgins. Joel Brandon's seamless whistling and flute work gets more than adequate support, and his conversations with both pianists are a highlight.
"Haven't We All...?" is also the opportunity to discover Joel Brandon as a composer ("Lovielee", dedicated to his mother, and "Straight Ahead" stand out) and as an entertainer ("Dedication" and "The Whistler's Rhyme").
This was one of Billy Higgins' final recording sessions and it sounds like he had a great time. And so can you.—Alain Drouot
Available on Southport Records, www.chicagosound.com