By Samantha Willis | Published April 2019
Several of the tracks on New York saxophonist Jordan Pettay’s debut, First Fruit, are reimagined medium-tempo hymns. Pettay’s evocative musicality, at once refined and raw, makes 200-year-old Christian music standards, like “I Am Thine O Lord,” feel fresh.
Christian Sands lends a hand to the project in more ways than one: He co-produced the album and contributes keys throughout. His riffing during the first measures of “I Surrender All” is nothing short of soulful, the organ’s rich tone and billowing vibrato bracing and sharpening Pettay’s keening solos.
One of the bandleader’s strengths is her obvious fluency in deep-fried Southern gospel, and her masterful ability to fuse a sanctified sound with other distinct styles—r&b and jazz, in particular. “Straight Street” takes listeners on a jaunty journey, with Jimmy MacBride’s drums driving the beat at a steady clip. Sands’ chording adds layers of color and complexity to the track, while Luke Sellick’s bass perfectly punctuates the piece. In her playing the tune, Pettay pays tribute to John Coltrane, who penned the song in 1957, a few weeks after parting ways with Miles Davis. Her sophisticated styling captures the original’s spirit, ebullient with hope and the promise of new beginnings. First Fruit could do with more original music, though; just three new songs are included here. But the lack of freshly penned work only stokes anticipation for Pettay’s next project. A worthy first effort, First Fruit should appeal to both saints and sinners.
First Fruit: Whatever Happens; I Am Thine O Lord; First Fruit; You Make Me Feel Brand New; For Wayne; Straight Street; I Exalt Thee; I Surrender All; Are You Washed In The Blood. (53:50)
Personnel: Jordan Pettay, alto, soprano saxophone; Christian Sands, piano, Fender Rhodes, Hammond B-3; Luke Sellick, bass; Jimmy Macbride, drums; Mat Jodrell (1, 4), trumpet; Joe McDonough (1, 4), trombone.