Friday, January 28, 2011

PASSING THE HAT


This is your sixth album. That’s a big deal given you’re still a teenager. I wonder if that’s a world record. I’ll have to investigate that. “Man with the Hat” is a solid addition to your growing discography , and I was taken by the album after the first listen. I’ve played it many times since. It says volumes about your talent that legendary saxophonist Phil Woods decided to co-lead this project, and the great pianist Monty Alexander participated as well.

Grace, you are a superb alto saxophonist and singer. You’re going to be a great jazz musician someday after you’ve had more life experiences. Right now, you have all the technical know how, but you’re still some years away from telling stories on your instrument. That will come with age and life experience. Some people familiar with your work have labeled you a musical prodigy. That’s false.

Such a label implies playing comes easily. Apparently, you've invested a lot of time listening to great alto saxophonists. Listening to “Man with the Hat”, I could tell you spent time honing and polishing your chops. I doubt if alto saxophonists Lee Konitz, who appeared on your fourth recording "Gracefullee" and Woods would’ve bothered with you if they didn’t believe you’re a dedicated musician.

Honestly, Grace, I’ve never been a big fan of Woods, especially after I read when Charlie Parker died Woods assumed his life. Woods inherited Parker's wife, his horn, and his sound. Chan Parker, who was married to Parker and Woods, wrote about it in her autobiography “My Life in E Flat”. That was a long time ago, and undoubtedly Woods has distinguished himself, and on this recording his chops are still in mint condition.

It was the grown folk’s material on “Man with the Hat” that held my attention “People Time”, “Ballad for Very Tired and Very Sad Lotus-Eater” and “Gone”. You delivered those songs with feeling, and you could’ve been easily mistaken for someone years older. You have a delicate singing voice.

On the up-tempo numbers, I had a hard time distinguishing between you and Woods. I mean that as a compliment. The standouts on “Man with the Hat” are “Gone” and your duet with bassist Evan Gregor on “Every Time We Say Goodbye” That was a nice moment, and it demonstrated the depth of your technical know how.
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