Sunday, April 17, 2016

Melissa Aldana - Back Home (Wommusic, 2016)

Tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana may be deeply influenced my Sonny Rollins’s classic trio albums of the 1950’s but who’s to say that is a bad thing? Certainly not Mr. Rollins, who clearly approves of her in this recent conversation they had for Burning Ambulance. Supporting her on this recording are Pablo Menares on bass and Jochen Rueckert on drums. “Alegria” leads off the album with strong drumming and swirling saxophone that makes great use of the open spaces that the trio format allows, with the music simmering at a medium-up tempo and Aldana soaring into a solo after probing the space and time around her, with bass and drums in clearly articulated support. The comfortable medium pace returns at the beginning of “Obstacles,” but is quickly discarded for a quietly intense performance. This track features some particularly fine bass playing from Menares, who is subtle, yet persistent throughout. The music has a strong internal flame that is building within the core of it, allowing for a subtle bass and drums interlude and then Aldana’s saxophone returning, leading the music to a logical conclusion. ”My Ship” is a standard ballad, played with a sense of languor or gentleness, opening with breathy saxophone and delicate bass. There is almost the sense of overhearing a whispered conversation with the words lilting in the breeze. Stealthy bass and drums clear a path for Andala’s ripe saxophone on “Servant #2.” The music is fast and spacious, developing a fast and complex rhythm of thick, taut bass and choppy drums leaving an excellent path for the leader’s saxophone to weave in and out of. “Before You” also catches the trio in their element, keeping the music quietly forceful. They do not need to add harsh sounds to their repertoire to make their statement, Aldana’s tight and confident saxophone tone along with the rock solid bass and drums are enough. She does dig in to push toward the end, carefully adding measured accents to the music, and the trio drives harder and faster toward an impressive conclusion. The happy upbeat swing of “Back Home” seems the most Sonny-like song on the album and Rueckert’s deft switch from brushes to sticks shifts the beat and makes this into a joyous blast of modern jazz. Bass and drums get a chance to trade sections before Adlana comes back to claim final victory on this fine album. Back Home -

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