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"Jazz Monthly Feature Interview" Althea René

Althea Rene Pix 1Smitty:  My next guest has quickly garnered a great deal of attention with her graceful and funky vibe. She’s one of the top flautists in the business. Perhaps you remember her from her last recording called CHOCOLATE RUSH. Her latest project is simply breathtaking, due to release February 21; it’s called In The Moment. Please give a very warm welcome for the incomparable Chocolate Caramel recording artist, the lovely and multi-talented Althea Rene. Althea, how are you? Welcome to Jazz Monthly.

Althea Rene (AR): Thank you! I’m doing great, Smitty. How are you?

Smitty:  I’m feeling good, thank you.  Let’s talk about this great new record. Girl, it’s fantastic! This is your follow-up to CHOCOLATE RUSH, a great CD and got such rave reviews, you did just a magnificent job with that project. You had some great players on there, a lot of Detroit sound, you know what I mean?

AR:  Oh yeah, a lot of Detroit flavor.

Smitty:  Yeah.

AR:  Best of the best.

Smitty: Yes, and your new record is called In The Moment, and this is sort of a different direction, but it still has a ton of funk. Talk to me about what moved you to do this record, IN THE MOMENT.

AR:  Well, I sort of have a model, an outlook on life and, you know; it’s that the past is the past, the future is unknown, it’s in God’s hands, and we just have to pray on it. The things that we do have control over are the moments in life, and rather than complain about what’s not right, just enjoy the moment.

Smitty:  Yes, great philosophy, and this CD certainly provokes a beautiful moment. I know when I first heard this record, my reaction was; ‘I was just overwhelmed by it and I recall looking at my arms, and showing you my forearms, and just seeing the goosebumps….I was just ecstatic over this great new record. And you’ve done such a great mix with it, a beautiful choice of songs, and I’ve gotta tell you right off my favorite song is Track 9, “And She Said”!

AR:  Oh, okay.

Smitty:  Incredible track. But let’s talk a little about your playing and how you were able to translate your feelings to song. Because I think you did a magnificent job of doing that.  And when I listen to this record, I can feel Althea René, her voice, in every track.  But tell me a little bit about how when you were doing this record, how you were able to put your voice into this and translate that to your audience. Because I’ve seen your live show and I know that you always have the audience in the palm of your hand each time I’ve seen you at a live show. Talk a little bit about how you’re able to put your voice into such a funky book of music.

AR:  Well, in doing this project, I really felt like it was really close to home. It expressed a lot of where I am now in my career and in my life, and I was able to really express that.  I did a lot more writing on this project than with the first project, and so that definitely lent a lot to being able to interject more of my personality, and just a feeling of being at peace. I am comfortable with where I am musically, as far as personality, and a lot of times with the flute, it typically has not been a popular instrument or an instrument that’s really been heard a lot in Smooth Jazz. I just feel like we have to represent, those of us that are performing or playing flute as a solo instrument.  It’s something that I really want to be able to get across and I just have so much love for the instrument, and I’m hungry to get the sound out there and to just spread the word, spread the love.

Smitty: Yes and you have such a unique and beautiful way of accomplishing that.

AR:  That’s what I’m about.

Smitty:  What I’ve noticed on a regular basis from the reviews of your live performances, is the rave about the way in which you are able to bring the flute to the front and center, and put so much feeling and so much emotion in the instrument, and translate that to music. It’s just an unbelievable thing. Now, you began playing at four years old, so you’re no stranger to this instrument, are you?

AR:  No, not at all.  It’s been a long love affair. It’s the only thing that I’ve done my entire life without a break.

Smitty:  Not everyone can say that.

AR:  Without a break, you know?  From the time I picked up the flute, it’s just been just a love affair.

Smitty:  You’ve had some great musical influences and inspirational people in your life such as Yusef Lateef and Donald Bird. Talk about how those influences as well as others are incorporated into your music.

AR:  Well, actually, very early on, my dad was an original musician with the Motown sound out of Detroit, so I had a great influence of music, between my dad playing jazz and Motown around the house, and my mother playing classical music. I have really had a chance to be exposed to a great deal of music. And one of the influences was Yusef Lateef. I happened to hear an album that my dad was playing and I heard him singing into the flute.  I thought, ‘wow, that is really something, you know?  He’s singing in the flute’.  Then I thought, well, ‘I wonder if I could do that’?  You know, being female, that if I did it with a higher range and everything, that might be something cool to do. So quite early I started experimenting with vocalizing into the flute and here I am now, just expressing myself. So it’s been great.

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