Jazz Album of the Week: Flutist Walter Bell's Companion Albums Celebrate Mom

May 6, 2020

May 4, 2020. Mother’s Day will be a lot different this year. The jazz brunches that would normally be packed will be replaced by curbside pickup and listening to Sunday Jazz Brunch with Bob Perkins on WRTI 90.1 (not too shabby) while chatting with family via Zoom.

There is a song that you will definitely hear BP play this Mother’s Day, and it’s the only one of it’s kind – flutist Walter Bell and the Latin Jazz Unit’s “Mother’s Day,” from The Walter Bell Companion, Volume 1.

Walter Bell is a longtime resident of Chestnut Hill, and has been a fixture on the jazz scene for decades. As the music industry began to change in the '90s, Bell founded his own label, Reika Records, and released 16 albums on his own, which led him to touring extensively and contributing his music to different aspects of the media.

The Walter Bell Companion, Volume 1 was released in 2003, and is a compilation of Walter and the LJU’s favorites from their numerous albums. Of course, “Mother’s Day “made the cut. The bouncy bossa tune brings you to a warm, sunny day filled with flowers, and one of those packed, buzzy jazz brunches.

Another WRTI favorite, “95 North to Philly,” also graces this album, and it’s a bit symbolic. Walter used to call the studio at WRTI to chat with hosts while making this drive. Oh, I should mention that he was coming from visiting his mother.

Three years after the release of the first volume, The Walter Bell Companion, Volume 2 hit the airwaves. In the meantime, Walter survived a Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), and one of the first gamma knife surgeries at Temple University Hospital. His medical team didn’t think he would be able to play again, yet they all attended his first concert.

This second Companion has a different feel from the first. There are familiar jazz tunes played with a Latin tinge, like “Killer Joe—Live and Latin,” and “I’ll Remember April—Bossa-Cha.” There is also a WRTI listener favorite: that wonderful rendition of “Little Girl Blue,” featuring vocalist Denise King. To this day, if we play that tune the phone rings immediately!

So, for your Mother’s Day week, we bring you a little bit of a blast from the past, some great music, and a story of resilience and hope. Enjoy the music and enjoy the holiday. When this is over we should all go out for brunch.