A Little Stardust
By Phillip Lutz
Melissa Aldana’s musical journey has been sprinkled with stardust, from 1990s TV appearances as a saxophone prodigy in her native Chile to a 2019 Grammy nomination for a solo on “Elsewhere,” off her last album, Visions (Motéma). In between, just as she was finding her footing in New York, Aldana won the Monk competition — the first female instrumentalist to do so — in 2013.
Now, at age 33, she is celebrating the release of 12 Stars, her debut album on Blue Note. Eight tracks that mine the depths of her interpretive gift, the album yields a bounty of new material wrapped in a fresh sonic package.
By Gary Fukushima
A year after his triumphant appearance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the NEA Jazz Masters awards ceremony, the South African pianist and composer’s plans were derailed by COVID-19. A planned 86th birthday concert back in Germany instead became a recording session where Ibrahim played alone in the intimate performance space that otherwise would have been filled to its 350-seat capacity.
The result was Solotude on Gearbox Records. When asked how different it was to be performing in an empty room, he answered dryly, “I do it all the time. When I started, no one wanted to come hear me play. I played to empty houses.” He bursted into joyous laughter.
By Aaron Cohen
Trumpeter Marquis Hill speaks in quietly determined tones. Hill’s conversational personality reflects his performance style where his subtle strength eschews unnecessary leaps and descents. These qualities shape his recently released live album, New Gospel Revisited on Edition Records. His sense of contemplation also may be a big part of what has kept him even-keeled throughout seven momentous years.
By Frank Alkyer
With Record Store Day landing April 23, it’s time for another installment of We Love Vinyl. Here are just a few selections the DB staff looks forward to digging into.
Veteran alto saxophonist Steve Slagle has been around several blocks and musical situations since the move from his native Los Angeles to New York City in the late 1970s. Beyond early work with Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra, the Carla Bley Band and ongoing links to the Mingus Big Band, Slagle has created a sizable discography as a leader, and a partnership with guitarist Dave Stryker, among other liaisons. During pandemic times alone, he has cut and released two albums — Nascentia and the new Ballads: Into the Heart of It (both on Panorama). This was Slagle’s first Blindfold Test, conducted via Zoom from the lockdown home base of his Manhattan apartment.