CD Review: Melissa Aldana - Crash Trio

Melissa Aldana - Crash Trio
(Concord Jazz. CJA35228102. CD Review by Mike Collins)

Chilean born tenor player Melissa Aldana made New York her home after graduating from Berklee College in 2009 and has quickly forged a formidable reputation. Still only twenty-six, she won the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition last year. A recording contract with Concord Jazz was part of the prize and this self-titled album is its first fruit, a trio recording with her regular collaborators fellow Chilean Pablo Menares on bass and the formidable Cuban drummer Franciso Mela.

The leader’s immersion in the breadth of the tenor tradition is evident with the influence of mentors and inspirations (from Joe Lovano and Mark Turner to Sonny Rollins) sometimes overtly acknowledged with knowing quotes and phrases. There’s also a distinct personality with a diverse cultural and musical heritage woven into to the set of mainly originals.

M&M is an arresting opener, launching with an off-kilter clattering groove from bass and drums and short punchy tenor phrases, every bit the hip New York trio before suddenly out pops a perky little swing theme over a springy two feel. There are plenty of teasing swerves and feints like this. Turning starts with an understated latin groove and floating abstract theme before switching to boldly stated rhythmic phrases. Bring him Home spools out long, attractive melodic lines before urgent, interlocking patterns break up the flow.

Aldana’s soloing is full of contrasts. Meditative melodic fragments are interspersed with flurries of patterns, honks or earthily swinging interludes. The interplay within the trio is electric. Occasionally improvised passages sound almost composed so quick and instinctive is the hook up between tenor and bass or drums. Menares and Mela get solo spots to introduce their own distinctive compositions. Mela’s For Joe (presumably Lovano in whose band Us Five we’ve seen Mela in UK) provides a highlight. A groove somewhere between latin and calypso and a theme of hooky melodic phrases launch an Aldana solo worthy of the master replete with a sideways Sonny Rollins quote and phrases somehow lazily draped across the harmony and propulsive at the same time.

This assured debut on Concord for Melissa Aldana has a thoughtful, intense, understated air even when the trio are digging into a crackling groove or are working out on an angular harmonic progression. A distinctive and appealing voice, we are sure to hear more of her.

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