Melissa Aldana Quintet ‘Visions’ LP/CD (Motéma Music) 5/5

“Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?”

Considered one of the most significant artists of the twentieth century, Frida Kahlo’s indelible impact as an artist and a source of inspiration continues to grow: while many gravitate to her style of portraits and self-portraits as an exploration of identity, gender and class, others are drawn to her sense of character, her strength and ability to find the beauty in pain.

Kahlo’s quest for self-identity and self-exploration is mirrored through the new album ‘Visions’ by Melissa Aldana who not only unveils her first project with her Melissa Aldana Quintet, but also her first album for the independent New York-based record label, Motéma Music.

A lifelong fan of Kahlo’s artwork – Chilean saxophonist, composer and bandleader, Melissa Aldana’s extensive list of accolades make her such a perfect fit for Motéma’s jazz, Latin and soul music aesthetic. The daughter of saxophonist Marcos Aldana, Melissa graduated Berklee in 2009 and can cite having performed at venues and festivals around the world including Panama Jazz Festival, So What’s Next? Jazz Festival in The Netherlands and Thailand’s International Jazz Day. She was the recipient of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition in 2013 at only 24 years old and can boast having chalked up studio performances with Brian Auger, Terri Lyne Carrington, Jure Pukl, Crash Trio and Carmen Paris.

And amidst all of these accolades and accomplishments, Aldana’s own catalogue continues to flourish, starting with ‘Free Fall’ (2010) and ‘Second Cycle’ (2012) both on Inner Circle Music, and ‘Back Home’ (Wommusic, 2014) to this year’s Genesis of the Melissa Aldana Quintet which comprises pianist Sam Harris (Ergo, Ben Van Gelder), bassist Pablo Menares (William Tatge Trio, Joanna Wallfisch), drummer Tommy Crane (Aaron Parks, Jo-Yu Chen) and Blue Note recording artist, vibraphonist Joel Ross (Makaya McCraven, Aaron Burnett).

As alluded to earlier, Kahlo’s paintings, particularly her self-portraits, were an opportunity for her to look inwards, as she once explained: “I am my own muse, I am the subject I know best. The subject I want to know better.” While Kahlo achieved that through her art, so does Aldana by using the music on ‘Visions’ to explore the subject that she strives to understand better which results in a deeply personal project filled with complex and exquisite soundscapes. The vibrant title track is an exquisite opener, the lush vibes of ‘Dos Casas Un Puente’ marks another highlight as does the brilliant ‘The Search’.

‘Visions’ marks a huge creative step forward for Melissa Aldana and her Quintet – it’s a stunning release and a huge win for Motéma Music. You have to believe that Melissa Aldana’s skill and passion will, in time to come, see her the subject for a new generation of artists looking to her for their own source of inspiration.

Imran Mirza

Tour dates:
JULY 6 – Gent Jazz Festival – Gent, Belgium
JULY 8 – Pizza Express – London, UK
JULY 9 – Pizza Express – London, UK
JULY 10 – Copenhagen Jazz Festival – Balders Plads, the Netherlands
JULY 12 – North Sea Jazz Fest – Rotterdam, the Netherlands
JULY 13 – Funchal Jazz Festival – Funchal, Portugal
JULY 15 – Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival – Edinburgh, UK