It's truly exhilarating yet sadly mundane and reductive that a recording as vital and victorious as Artemis
will be universally hailed as a first from an all-female supergroup. That it cuts across all generational, cultural, international, and ethnic planes. That Blue Note Records has expanded its ever legendary ranks to include, well, you know, a female supergroup. It's like the more we think we've gotten past these worn, tired types of qualifiers we realize all the more we really haven't.
Until that day we no longer feel the need to identify such things, we turn, as every society does, to our artists to lead, and lead Artemis
does. How could it not when pianist and musical director Renee Rosnes
joins equally fierce forces with tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana
, clarinetist Anat Cohen
, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen
, drummer Allison Miller
, bassist Noriko Ueda
, and featured vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant
for a tough, tight and tenacious nine song set that catches fire immediately with Miller's "Goddess of the Hunt." A wily composition that brings each member to the fore without breaking the ensemble's inherent integrity. On "Goddess of the Hunt"propelled by Rosnes' and Ueda's insistence and Miller's persistenceAldana and Jensen run the gamut as Cohen binds it all together. It's a kick-off not to be to missed.
Aldana's precocious "Frida," one of the tunes the saxophonist didn't include on her emotionally weighted study suite of the painter Frida Kahlo, Visions
(Motema, 2019) weaves more space for the five to establish both an intrinsic group synergy and individual personality. Never opting out for ego's sake, Jensen's intricate rendering of John Lennon
and Paul McCartney
's "The Fool On the Hill" allows for each voice to freely interpret one of rock's greatest ruminations with a real time urgency for the real time absurdity we live through daily.
All five minutes of Rosnes' finger snapping, toe tapping "Big Top" is sheer joy to listen to and a virtuoso testament by the septet to the Greek goddess that inspires them. Salvant makes a stunning entrance with Stevie Wonder
's elegant 1977 ballad "If It's Magic." Cohen, whose high flights of fancy and in depth explorations of shadow and light throughout the album almost steals the whole show, brings the contemplative "Nocturno" for each player to color. In stark contrast of mood and style, Ueda's punchy swing-fest "Step Forward" lets us marvel at Cohen's acrobatics, Jensen's lyrical agility, and Rosnes' whimsical sense of light. It's a remarkably fluid piece. Which is a fine way to describe the whole of this debut by a crew of veterans. Inspired by the times around them, Artemis returns the inspiration tenfold.
Goddess Of The Hunt; Frida; The Fool On The Hill; Big Top; If It's Magic; Nocturno; Step Forward; Cry
Buttercup Cry; The Sidewinder.