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Connie Han: Iron Starlet

Mike Jurkovic By

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A decisively brazen talent, pianist Connie Han rushes into the fire touched off by her 2018 Mack Avenue debut Crime Zone, bringing more accelerant to bear on Iron Starlet.

With an exhilarating control of her skills and vision and an intimate clairvoyance into all that has come before her, Han bids trumpeter Jeremy Pelt the opening fanfare for the album's flag track, thus clearing headspace for Han, bassist Ivan Taylor and drummer/producer/musical director Bill Wysaske to swoop in like a trio of Lockheed SR-71 Blackbirds, and it's all hands on deck. Piano and drums are locked in tight and tighter, (even during Han's torched solo does Wysaske solo more than accompany). Pelt, with an upper tone and stylistic range embodying Lee Morgan and Freddie Hubbard concurrently, falls perfectly into Han's kindling blueprint: that when past meets future both coexist and co-create and for Iron Starlet. It's game on from there.

Employing her Rhodes to full color and allure, Wysaske's "Nova," with its deceptive shifts in ambience and meter, reveals itself a mellow, almost romantic interlude for Pelt and tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III to trade off and interpret. Wysaske's tempered brush work throughout provides as much a cloud and canvas for the horns as does Han. The indigo bluesy, finger snapping "Mr. Dominator" is just cool swing with Taylor holding his colleagues to the spirit of the masters. Taylor is an intriguing listen as he finds more and more clever ways to insert himself into the Han/Wysaske airlock with an earthy tone that affords the trio an extremely solid footing.

Seemingly embboldened by her recent signing as a Steinway Artist, Han's hell-raising "For the O.G." revels in its post bop self with uncompromising vitality and percussive, cutting verve, instantly conjuring the late McCoy Tyner, who was himself a Steinway luminary. Han returns to her Rhodes for more than a passing a nod to the fluid modality and melodic lines of Chick Corea and Return to Forever with Joe Chambers' "Hello to the Wind." A smokey lounge luxury then besets "Detour Ahead" and "Captain's Song" as the players settle and sway, letting Han's vivid expressiveness take over from her more percolating personae which she soon sets loose (but only after the delicate, waltzing original "The Forsaken") on the rousing, closing twister, "Dark Chambers."

Track Listing

Iron Starlet; Nova; Mr. Dominator; For the O.G.; Hello to the Wind; Detour Ahead; Captain's Song; Boy Toy; The Forsaken; Dark Chambers.

Personnel

Connie Han: piano; Bill Wysaske: drums; Ivan Taylor: bass; Jeremy Pelt: trumpet; Walter Smith III: saxophone, tenor.

Album information

Title: Iron Starlet | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Mack Avenue Records

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