Friday, March 5, 2010


You probably don't remember me. Vocalist Joan Belgrave introduced us last year at the Detroit International Jazz Festival. We set together in the VIP section at the main stage, waiting for Stefon Harris to take the stage. It was drizzling, and I held an umbrella over you. I asked about Beyonce', who you have toured with. Do any of those details jog your memory? If not it isn't a big deal. You probably meet unsuspecting jazz journalists at festivals all the time. Meeting you, however, was a thrill. You're the first professional female saxophonist I ever met. I've been following your career since you signed with Mack Avenue Records in 2006. A year later, I heard you live with the remarkable trumpeter Sean Jones. He was already signed to Mack Avenue, and he was making his presence known in jazz circles.

The first time I saw you perform live, you looked fresh out of college, and eager to make your mark. On the alto sax, you had a pastry rich tone. I took to you right away. You weren't trying to emulate Charlie Parker or any other noticeable alto saxophonists. You weren't afraid to be yourself, and I admired that greatly. Your first album for Mack Avenue, "Healing Space," was worthwhile. I predicted you'll make many outstanding jazz albums before you decide to hang up your horn.

Tia, I've been listening to an advance copy of your upcoming album "Decisive Steps" for a month straight. The album doesn't have any shortcomings. (I’ll let my readers know the album hit the streets March 16, and they should buy two copies. If they wear out one, they’ll have a backup.) It's your most eclectic album to date. Your considerable talents were displayed throughout the album. Tia, over the years, you have become a tremendous soloist and a skilled composer. I appreciate that you had the courage to write all the tunes on "Decisive Steps". So many jazz artists nowadays have a play-it-safe mentality.

You and Sean Jones are the perfect companions. On “Windsoar,” you guys were like an old married couple who’s in touch with each other feelings. “Ebb&Flow” was an old-fashion blowing session. "Steppin'," the duet with the tap dancer Maurice Chestnut, was a teaser. The ballad "Clear Mind" slowed down my heart rate. The closer "My Shinning Hour" showed that you have a free jazz streak. I got wrapped up in the tug-of-war you and pianist Shamie Royston had near the conclusion of the tune. Tia, excuse me if I sound corny proclaiming that “Decisive Steps” is your shinning hour.
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