by Ferell Aubre
Flutist Althea René hails originally from the heart of Detroit, Michigan. She started her exploration of music at the fledgling age of four. Her formal studies included classical music while attending Howard University in Washington D.C. as most musicians do, her continued exploration of music led her to gain further inspiration from the accomplishments of Yusef Lateef, Ian Anderson, and her father (one of Motown’s original Funk Brothers) Dezie McCullers. Her endeavors have not always been that of music. For more than 10 years she was employed as a Wayne County Deputy Sheriff (Detroit, Michigan). Music was always in her soul and proudly, she is a full-time performing/recording artist.
René’s discography includes nine vivacious albums that have brought forth chart sightings on the Billboard Chart and the Smooth Jazz Chart. In fact, René made history by becoming the first flute player in the history of the Billboard Chart to reach the number one spot. René is also an entrepreneur launching her first book in June 2018 entitled “Becoming Chocolate Barbie – a guide for professional women in the music business.” Her latest album Flawsome continues her solid discography of soulful stylings. The album features Demetrius Nabors: keyboards; Robert Skinner: bass; Gary Johnson, Andrew Freeman and Jas Miller: guitar; Nate Winn, Eric Valentine: drums; Chris “Big Dog” Davis, Lew Laing: drum programming, keyboard bass, keyboards, rhythm arrangements; Euge Groove, Jeanette Harris: sax; Andrew Dorsett: keyboard and programming and Dwight Adams: trumpet.
“Rock with You” is René at her best. Set to a rich groove that allows René to push and pull the Michael Jackson melody with finesse and style. René’s flute tone is round, and she has a slight vibrato to the majority of her long notes. The arrangement does justice to the original, with some harmonic and orchestrative surprises. René’s solo is centered around the melody and she never tries to over complicate things. Rene is all about the feel of each phrase. The relaxed nature of the playing is perfect for Rene’s style of musical expression and also shows the versatility of Jackson’s appeal and musical works.
David Bowie’s “Life On Mars” is given the a funky treatment. Trumpeter Dwight Adams adds a warm tone and muted trumpet sounds. Rene’s arrangement is excellent as the tune has nice feel changes and different instrumental colors. This a tremendous solo by Rene. The solo has energy, harmonics, humming while playing, growls and trills. This is feel good music, both here and on Mars!
Althea René has certainly put together a worthy listen, though she touts Flawsome as having imperfections, its is those human elements that make the album that more accessible for its human beauties. Make no mistake this is as close to human perfection as one would desire, the performances are top-shelf and René sounds better than ever.