Studying with jazz iconoclasts like Jackie McLean and Yusef Lateef has given Sarah Manning the confidence to develop her own conception of jazz music. Employing a tart and immediate tone on alto saxophone and supported by pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Kyle Struve, she explores eleven compositions, both standards and originals. "The Peacocks" opens the album with pinched acerbic alto saxophone and lush piano. Manning's dark toned alto floats over an atmospheric, rippling backdrop to good effect. She is very successful with the ballad "Habersham Street," employing a yearning tone over emotional, nearly romantic piano support. An impressive unaccompanied alto section allows her to fly solo with dramatic and effective results. "I Tell Time by the Dandelion Clock" broods moodily before picking up to an insistent trio section and pinched alto saxophone solo. "The Owls (Are on the March)" is the centerpiece of the album, opening spare and spacious and then building suite-like through sections of march drumming with saxophone and an expansive piano - saxophone duet. "Phoenix Song" builds the pace to a sing-song feel and solid medium tempo quartet swing. After a rippling piano trio feature, Manning's strong saxophone returns in a dialogue trading nimble phrases with the drummer Struve. This was a very solid album of modern mainstream jazz. The most impressive thing for me was the strong and piercing tone that Sarah Manning has developed on her instrument, she is well on her way to the holy grail that musicians strive for, "finding their own voice." Linda Oh (who released a great album of her own last year) is excellent as well with rock solid accompaniment and inventive soloing. Dandelion Clock - amazon.com
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