Connie Han

Iron Starlet
(Mack Avenue)

It takes a moment for Connie Han to join the fray on Iron Starlet, her second album as a bandleader. She hangs back on the opening title track for a few seconds, letting trumpeter Jeremy Pelt set the tone. But she’s soon off and running, following every peak and valley of Pelt’s fleet melody, interjecting quick showers of notes. And as the song reaches its halfway mark, Han takes the wheel with a solo that’s like a great gymnastics floor exercise—twisting notes combining with the hard slap of chords being laid down by her left hand. From that point on, Iron Starlet becomes a showcase for Han’s skills as a bop player of fearsome ability, a supple balladeer and a groove merchant par excellence. It’s that last talent that the album could have used a touch more of.

When Han sets herself at the Rhodes, which she does only on a pair of tracks here, her approach to the music shifts considerably. The emphasis turns to repeating melodic phrases and finding the right glassy tones to apply to a Latin-esque shuffle (“Nova”) and a funk joyride (“Hello To The Wind”). Her firm handle on pure jazz vernacular is substantial, but knowing how capable she is at pushing in other directions only makes a hunger for some variety on Iron Starlet that much greater.

Those excursions might be forthcoming as, at the age of 24, Han still is in the early stages of what should prove to be a long and fruitful career as a performer and recording artist. On Iron Starlet, she’s firmly established herself as a talent to watch—and listen to—closely so as not to miss one moment of her already remarkable evolution.

On Sale Now
April 2024
Béla Fleck
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