Philippe Saisse at the grand piano playing Flute Aeterna.

Flue Æterna – a time capsule full of 90’s vibes

If the robust, high-octane Latin-fired vibe of Philippe Saisse’s latest uniquely titled single “Flute Æterna” fires up your senses with reminders of a classic freewheeling 90s contemporary jazz vibe, it’s because it first took shape in that golden era.

In March 1990, flush with the success of his solo debut album Valerian, the keyboardist/composer put together a dynamic NYC session with flutist Dave Valentin and electric guitarist Hiram Bullock, two legendary, boundary pushing late greats of the time, along with percussionist Don Alias.

Originally intended for Saisse’s second solo album, the original unnamed track – created as a showcase for Valentin’s melodic and improvisational genius – was set aside when he had a falling out with the label and never released.

Though Saisse has gone on to decades of success since – including a Grammy nomination for his 2009 solo album At World’s Edge and countless #1 hits as a solo artist, trio leader and writer/producer for other artists, he never forgot the song – or the flutist’s powerful performance.

Flute Æterna

Two years ago, he decided to re-record the entire album he was working on, keeping only the live tracks of the great musicians who participated in it, and redoing everything that had been created via the style of programming and artificial synth sounds that was prevalent 30 years ago. 

With a title that pays homage to Valentin’s enduring spirit and the clever name of French composer William Sheller’s 1972 debut album Lux Æterna, “Flute Æterna” – the first track the keyboardist has completed so far – includes the original performances by Valentin, Bullock and Alias and features Saisse’s fresh re-arrangement, redone piano parts and added marimba, vibes, horns, drums and bass. 

The Los Angeles based 2023 recording features live studio performances Abraham Laboriel (electric bass) and the fresh, sizzling horn section of Jamie Hovorka (trumpet), Rick Braun (trumpet), Brandon Fields (tenor and alto sax), Nick Lane (trombone) and David Mann (baritone sax). Drummer Mauricio Zottarelli recorded remotely from Sao Paulo, Brazil.

One of the challenges in creating the new track was transferring the original 1990 masters – which were recorded on now outdated Akai DR1200 A-DAM system – to modern digital Pro Tools technology. “Once I found the right guy to do that,” Philippe says, “I was able to keep the incredible audio of Dave, Hiram and Don and create a whole new sonic energy around it. At the start, I had no idea how the new arrangement would go, but it turned out great. I hadn’t heard Dave’s kind of flute blowing in so long, and the track is really a tribute to the gifts he left us and his many fans. I felt like I had an obligation to bring his performance back in a way that would do it justice.”