Flute and holler! Musician wants to change the flute’s image

He’s all flute, no suit!

In a move he hopes will change the jazz image of his slim, silvery instrument, a Trinidadian flutist and his quartet will take the stage at a Park Slope concert April 7 dressed in cool, casual outfits.

At the show at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music touting his upcoming album “Palmyra and Other Places,” David Bertrand and his bassist, guitarist and drummer will perform in sweaters — not suits — to make the audience feel more comfortable, and more receptive to the music.

“Jazz was known to be played by people who wear suits, and coming out of post-Colonialism, the men who wore suits are the guys you don’t trust,” Bertrand said. “But basically we’re just guys playing jazz wearing sweaters — not against wearing suits, but working out what it means to be modern jazz musician.”

The Park Slope-based flutist hopes the appearance will help bring back accessibility to jazz, which Bertrand feels is often stereotyped as a genre for the elite.

“I’m excited about the prospect of being able to play with normal, everyday people,” he said. “One indictment I have about jazz in New York is it’s a niche thing removed from the experience, but it’s always supposed to be accessible to normal people. As musicians we fear being priced out as well and the idea our neighbors can’t come to our shows — that’s not cool.”

Bertrand’s other primary goal is to demonstrate that the flute — like other more popular instruments — can take a leading role in a jazz quartet.

“The stigma is very much still there and the flute has had a hard time because of physics — it doesn’t play as loud as a trumpet or a saxophone,” he said. “Many bands didn’t have flute players and very often the folks doing solo on flutes were saxophonists.”

The lack of trained flutists created a false view of the instrument and its place in jazz music, Bertrand added. “As a result there was a lot of bad flute playing and people’s opinions were shaped by people that weren’t invested in flute.”

Bertrand says his music is influenced by New York jazz, but also Afro-Trinidadian folk music.

“Our folkloric music is so rich and deep and in New York some people in the community might hear bits and pieces of it in Calypso, and that is the music that inspired me,” he said.

And as a staunch appreciator of music history, Bertrand is looking forward to playing at the Brooklyn Conservatory and showcasing his style of jazz to music lovers.

“Being able to play in building that is over 100 years old — it’s an old building and I’ll be playing with people I love to play with,” said Bertrand. “I try to make the music honest and lovely, and even if you are not a fan of jazz music, you’ll dig it.”

David Bertrand at Brooklyn Conservatory of Music [58 Seventh Ave. between Lincoln and Saint John’s Places in Park Slope, (718) 622–3300, www.bkcm.org]. April 7 at 7 pm. $15.

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimo[email protected]local.com.

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