Sunday, July 31, 2022

Melissa Aldana - 12 Stars (Blue Note Records, 2022)

Slowly but surely, tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana has developed a very successful career in jazz. Daughter of Chilean saxophone player, she developed a solid grounding in classic hard bop at home and in local clubs, before heading to the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Her big break came in 2013, when she became the first female musician and the first South American to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, which opened up performance and recording opportunities. After a series of solo albums for smaller labels, and one for her group Crash, she was invited to record for Blue Note Records. The album was produced by guitarist Lage Lund, who also performs on it, in addition to Sullivan Fortner on piano and Fender Rhodes electric piano, Kush Abadey on drums, and Pablo Menares on bass. The group is very tight and they develop finely tooled modern jazz, beginning when the cascading opening track “Falling” where crisp rhythm and fleet guitar make way for graceful saxophone soloing. Lund worked with Aldana on the arrangements for the album, and this pays dividends, especially since the electric guitar and Rhodes piano can cover so much ground musically, they are able to create situations like the the ballad “Emilia” where the music can seemingly hang suspended in the air, creating a gentle tension that is gradually resolved. “The Bluest Eye,” a nod to the author Toni Morrison, is another piece that doesn’t release its secrets too quickly, evolving into a weaving performance focused on tenor saxophone and acoustic piano that is reminiscent of the mysterious and memorable music Wayne Shorter was writing in the mid 1960’s. This album worked very well, Melissa Aldana is patient and thoughtful in the presentation of her music, aided by an excellent team that aids her capably in bringing this project to its fruition. 12 Stars -

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