All About Jazz

Home » Articles » CD/LP/Track Review


Lena Hovanesian: irwinorange

Dan McClenaghan By

Sign in to view read count
In assigning colors to a musician's "sound," does alto saxophonist Lena Hovanesian blow orange? Maybe. On her debut CD, irwinorange, the title taken from the 2014 Franklin Evans' painting of the same name, Hovanesian's alto has a citrus-y tang, as she explores, sonically, her love of abstract art and natural beauty of Hawaii and her native California.

Hovanesian employs some of New York City's finest forward-thinking jazz players in her ruminations—it's an all original set—on Hawaii's "Waimea Valley," California's "Redwood Tree," and the art of "Richard Jackson" and Franklin Evans. Of those irwinorange collaborators, none is more esteemed than pianist Kenny Werner, who sits in on three tunes, including the tranquil and beautiful opener, "Waimea Valley," after the green and restful Oahu nature spot just back from the famous surf beach, Waimea Bay. The music begins with a alto sax/piano duet, gentle trade winds underlain by the cool stream dropping off a verdant cliff to create a tropical waterfall.

"Kailani" throbs in on a Chris Lightcap's bass heartbeat. Manuel Schmiedel piano wanders and drifts, slipping into a repetitive comp behind Lightcap's bass solo, leading into the mesmerizing unison horn work of Hovanesian and Ralph Alessi, a sound reminiscent of the Miles Davis/Wayne shorter teaming on Nefertiti (Columbia Records, 1967).

"Left Field" features Alessi's circuitous solo. There is a nice contrast to his and the leader's horn styles. Alessi is a sharp knife cutting silver arcs through the air. Hovanesian, especially here on "Left Field," smolders after an eerie intro, backed by the fluid elegance of Kenny Werner's keyboard.

Hovanesian proves herself an exceptional instrumentalist throughout, whether investigating the stateliness and grandeur of the "Redwood Tree" or the green/blue serenity of undersea life, on "Anthias Fish." And she draws great performances from her distinguished sidemen, and writes surprisingly mature, off-center tunes that command the listener's attention from start to finish. You can't start out a recording career much better than the young saxophonist does on irwinorange

Track Listing: Waimea Valley; Kailani; Left Field; Redwood Tree; Richard Jackson; irwinorange (Franklin Evans); Anthias Fish; Ochre; Left Field (alternate take).

Personnel: Lena Hovanesian: alto saxophone: Ralph Alessi: trumpet; Kenny Werner: piano (1, 3, 9); Manuel Schmiedel: piano (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8); Chris Lightcap: bass; Gerald Cleaver: drums.

Title: irwinorange | Year Released: 2015 | Record Label: Self Produced


comments powered by Disqus

Related Articles

Read Live In Healdsburg CD/LP/Track Review
Live In Healdsburg
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Carpe Diem CD/LP/Track Review
Carpe Diem
by Don Phipps
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Exotica CD/LP/Track Review
by Chris May
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Oriental Orbit CD/LP/Track Review
Oriental Orbit
by Glenn Astarita
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Brightbird CD/LP/Track Review
by Henning Bolte
Published: March 19, 2018
Read Peaks of Light CD/LP/Track Review
Peaks of Light
by Mark Sullivan
Published: March 18, 2018
Read "Falling Forward" CD/LP/Track Review Falling Forward
by James Nadal
Published: July 27, 2017
Read "Black Swan" CD/LP/Track Review Black Swan
by Chris Mosey
Published: March 17, 2018
Read "Holiday On Fire" CD/LP/Track Review Holiday On Fire
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: April 27, 2017
Read "Do For You?" CD/LP/Track Review Do For You?
by Roger Farbey
Published: August 5, 2017
Read "Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn" CD/LP/Track Review Estonian Suite: Live In Tallinn
by Bruce Lindsay
Published: November 18, 2017
Read "The Notebooks" CD/LP/Track Review The Notebooks
by Mark Corroto
Published: March 6, 2018