Alina Bzhezhinska & Tony Kofi

Altera Vita

Wow! Altera Vita, the new recording by harpist Alina Bzhezhinska and tenor saxophonist Tony Kofi, shimmers with grace and beauty. This is a duets recording, just the two of them on their instruments, as well as handling percussion, which consists of a variety of chimes, kalimbas, singing bowls and such. The proceedings are called to order with three rings on a metal bowl before Kofi introduces the simple, sweet melody of “Tabula Rasa–Blank Slate.” It’s a quiet ballad of hope and yearning with both Bzhezhinska and Kofi taking their time to soak in every moment of this music. So begins this six-song, perfectly paced set where the two ooze soul and spirituality. It’s quiet and meditative, boisterous and thought provoking, with Kofi keeping his cool, offering well-timed explosions of power on tunes like “Audite Me–Hear Me.” Bzhezhinska flows water-like throughout, especially on the tune “Anima–Breathe.” If this sounds like a tribute to John and Alice Coltrane, there’s a definite element of that here. Bzhezhinska and Kofi performed together in 2017 for a concert honoring “the first couple of jazz” at the EFG London Jazz Festival. But it’s even more of a tribute to the late saxophonist Pharoah Sanders, a major influence for both artists. After Sanders passed away in 2022, Kofi wrote “Altera Vita (for Pharoah Sanders),” this album’s namesake, and its closing number, here titled “Altera Vita–Another Life.” He and Bzhezhinska recorded and released it as a single last year. This magazine gave it 5 stars, a rarity because DownBeat doesn’t often review singles. The concept for the album, thankfully, grew from there. It’s a fantastic work, one that does the memory of those legends proud and expands on the tradition of jazz spirituality. Altera Vita is a powerful, moving, take-your-breath-away masterpiece.

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