Sunday, July 13, 2008

SWEET SIXTEEN

Listening to your second album Gracefullee, I had this vision of you locked up in your bedroom testing some tricky chord changes to a composition you've working on. Tacked to the walls are posters of your favorite jazz musicians. You’re positioned in front of your mirror blowing your alto sax. There’s photo of you wearing a black leather cap clutching your horn. You’re smiling. Next to the nightstand is an old fashion record player your mom purchased at Targets.

Atop your unmade twin size bed are albums by Stan Getz and Paul Desmond (the albums belong to your mom--there’re her favorite), and several pages of sheet music paper you’ve used to transcribe some of Getz’s and Desmond’s solos. The window in your bedroom is open halfway to allow fresh air in. You can hear the neighborhood kid’s frolicking outside. In front of the mirror, you’ve labored for hours trying to master Desmond’s licks.

The teens in your Wellesley, Massachusetts neighborhood think you’re asocial because you prefer to practice instead of going to the movies, hanging out at the Mall, and obsessing about boys. If Charlie Parker was alive you probably invite him to senior prom.. Instead of roaming with your classmates, you’d spend the evening picking Parker's brain. Insisting he teach you the chord changes to Parker's Mood.

Grace at, 16, you’re what mystics brand an old soul. I didn’t think it was feasible for a teenager to play with such maturity and authority. When I received Gracefullee last month and saw you on the cover with your mentor alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, I was a bit skeptical. Who in their right mind would give a recording deal to a teenager I mused?

Standing next to Konitz you looked so shy and out of place. I figured Konitz carried you through the session, and your sidemen guitarist Russell Malone, bassist Rufus Reid and drummer Mat Wilson would handled you, pardon the pun, with kid gloves. Grace, I was dead wrong.

On this nearly flawless offering you’re in absolute control from start to finish. I should have known you’re unarguably special because the great saxophonist Phil Woods raved about you. Plus, this year alone you received some impressive accolades: Best Jazz Act in Boston, ASCAP Foundation 2008 Young Jazz Composer Award, and 2008 Downbeat Magazine Student Music Awards just to list three.

On the duets with Konitz I couldn’t tell who was who because you both have identical melodic temperaments. You played the ballads You Don’t Know What Love Is and There Is Not Greater Love with a puppy love sort of innocence and naivete.

The duet with Malone on Just Friends and with Konitz on Alone Together are the most striking selections. You kidded around on Buzzing Around, having Konitz chase you through the chord changes. I bet he had to take breather afterward.

On Call of The Spirits and NY At Noon, nifty free jazz based compositions you let loose your aggressive size. Gracefullee is your sophomore album, but it should be taken as your official coming out party.
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