Zoh Amba

O Life, O Light Vol. 1

Zoh Amba is a young, New York-based tenor saxophonist, flutist and composer working on the outer edges of the new music scene. Her music is a scrappy mix of whoops, wails and plaintive shouts to the universe. Comparisons to the lineage of John Coltrane and Albert Ayler are apparent. While promising, it is way too early for that. Let’s just say Amba is a young artist fighting hard to find her voice.

On her latest recording, O Life, O Light (577), Amba is in good company with bassist William Parker and drummer Francisco Mela. The three mesh on a trio of extended-play tunes — “Mother’s Hymn,” “O Life, O Light” and “Mountains In The Predawn Light. (There is also a bonus track, “Satya,” on some versions.)

Amba grew up in the Appalachian mountains, bringing an earthy tone, timbre and attitude to her art. But her studies with David Murray are also apparent in her playing. On “Mother’s Hymn,” she controls an aggressive vibrato in the lower registers and pushes her tenor saxophone beyond the edge on the highs . On “Mountains In The Predawn Light,” Amba effectively switches to flute, offering another, more chill, side to her work. Throughout the set Parker and Mela simmer beneath the swoops, stirring the pot — Parker effectively employing arco in just the right places, Mela serving as an always-tasty foil on drums.

With O Life, O Light, we hear where she’s going. Her next challenge is to make us feel it, too. Expect more from Amba in the coming year, including Vol. 2 of this collection.

On Sale Now
March 2023
Delfeayo Marsalis
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