Aug 19 2014
There is a raw energy to The Brandee Younger 4tet: Live at the Breeding Ground, which is a potent quality for a contemporary jazz fusion album to possess. A forward-thinking contemporary jazz sound, harpist Brandee Younger‘s quintet doesn’t treat the thick grooves as the reason for the season, but instead simply utilizes those grooves as fuel for some great solos and interplay. The result is a live performance recording that will make a listener feel like they are there in the moment, and that the moment is already transitioning to something new.
Also important, Younger keeps her harp in the middle of the pack. Too many times, a musician leading a jazz unit with a non-traditional instrument either stays too far to the back of the stage, almost hesitant to make a peep or swings in the opposite direction and insinuates their sound into everything… as if saying, look, my instrument is a real jazz instrument, too! But Younger doesn’t lean to either extreme, instead finding her spots in each song, leading from the center of the music, and displaying not a little bit of confidence… a remarkable thing considering that, aside from a 2011 EP and some singles in the time since, The Brandee Younger 4tet: Live at the Breeding Ground qualifies as her debut behind the steering wheel.
And really, why shouldn’t she be confident? Aside from the obvious talent, harp really isn’t an unheard of thing in Jazz. Back in the day, Dorothy Ashby showed the world that harp could breathe bop air via some nifty collaborations with the great Frank Wess. Alice Coltrane obliterated a number of doors by serving as a driving force in husband John’s later, heavy free period, and then on her own with some outstanding spiritual jazz sessions in the late 60s and into the subsequent decade. In the modern era, there’s Carol Robbins carving out territory in the straight-ahead sphere and Iro Haarla creating all kinds of beautiful serenity on the Nordic jazz subset of the modern landscape.
And, thankfully, Younger seems intent on claiming her own patch of Jazz. Even as she includes compositions by her harpist forbears, Ashby and Coltrane, both the bop and the spirit are clearly focused through Younger’s perspective, looking ahead as she honors the past.
Not for nothing, this album is very cool.
Your album personnel: Brandee Younger (harp), Stacy Dillard (soprano sax), Chelsea Baratz (tenor sax), Dezron Douglas (electric & acoustic basses), and E.J. Strickland (drums).
The album is Self-Produced.
Jazz from NYC.