Reflections is the long-awaited follow-up to Alina Bzhezhinska's excellent 2018 album, Inspiration. But whilst Inspiration looked back, and celebrated the achievements and influence of Alice Coltrane, Reflections embraces a wider range of influences – including John Coltrane, Duke Ellington and Dorothy Ashby – and places them – and Alina’s harp, in a more modern setting. The album is credited to Alina and HipHarpCollective, which is essentially a rhythm section she has been working with to create this new setting. The band is comprised of Mikele Montolli (Electric Bass), Adam Teixiera (Drums) and Joel Prime (Percussion). The core band is joined by a variety of collaborators including saxophonist Tony Kofi – who also contributed to Inspiration – trumpeter Jay Phelps and vocalist Vimala Rowe.
The album opens with a bass-heavy, funky read of Dorothy Ashby’s Soul Vibrations, which appeared on her influential 1968 album, Afro-Harping. This track also features Ying Xue on violin, whose contributions bring to mind the strings added to classic Soul II Soul singles back in the day. For Carrol is a delightful original by the bandleader, and includes an elegant, somewhat mournful trumpet solo by Jay Phelps, before Alina delivers a solo of her own over the shuffling beat.
Fire, by Joe Henderson and Alice Coltrane, is up next and features the dual horns of Tony Kofi and Jay Phelps, the former delivering the heat with an impressive opening solo before the trumpet player delivers his response. The arrangement is more percussion heavy, showcasing Joel Prime, and giving the tune a slight Latin-feel. The title track is a more meditative original, featuring the band leader. Adam Teixiera switches to brushes and Julie Walkington fills in for Mikele Montolli on acoustic bass. “The tunes we play are my own reflections on what I love the most,” Alina reveals: “Free spirit, courage, innovation and all beautiful things life is giving us.”
Afro Blue is a super re-imagining of the Mongo Santamaria standard, featuring a seductive vocal by Vimala Rowe. The arrangement gradually builds until the two horns come in, eventually giving way to a dual solo by Adam Teixiera and Joel Prime, wo bring the tune back to the opening refrain. Superb!
African Flower composed by Duke Ellington sees the Collective move to a quieter, more supportive role, with tony Kofi and Alina Bzhezhinska taking centre stage and layering the beauty of Ellington’s gorgeous melody.
Paris Sur La Toit, an original by the bandleader, sounds like a late-night classic in the making; the original has a cool, after-hours vibe, and the later vocal version, featuring SANITY and Tom TheyThem, adds Anglo-French hip-hop, adding to the crossover appeal of this fine tune. The album closes with another original, Meditation, which sounds closer in style to Alina’s previous album, and brings the album to a fitting close.
Relections was recorded in late 2020, and is finally released on 23 September, 2022, with a launch party two days later at King’s Place which features all the musicians that feature on the album. That should be some event!