Melissa Aldana and Lionel Loueke at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival

Ernest Barteldes BY

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Melissa Aldana and Lionel Loueke
Summerstage at Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
Marcus Garvey Park
New York, NY
August 23, 2014

Playing before a packed audience at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park, Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana made her Charlie Parker Jazz Festival debut backed by a piano-less trio rounded out by Pablo Menares (bass) and Francisco Mela (drums), kicking off with a down-tempo take on George Gershwin's "I Loves You Porgy" in which the bandleader took advantage of the blank spaces left in the music to improvise. She followed with the original "Alegria,"a Mela composition that began with an extended drum solo, followed by a long saxophone crescendo. The tune evolved into a very syncopated piece, once again using empty spaces left by no instruments playing chords to fill in with improvised notes and beats.

The short set's greatest highlight came with the original "Back Home," a tune Aldana said was inspired by the work of Sonny Rollins. It started with a 6/8 tempo and then evolved into a swinging, bluesy mode that motivated many of the audience members to get up and dance in front of the stage. The tune featured a skillful drum solo that kept everyone moving, and the band wrapped things up to great applause.

After a short break, Benin-born guitarist Lionel Loueke came on, backed by bass and drums, kicking off the set with a tune that had a bit of a contemporary bossa feel. Loueke plays with incredible fluidity, doing mostly chord and arpeggio-based solos with a clear West African vibe.

During another moment, he sang along with his guitar lines, doing some percussive mouth "clicks" in between beats, complementing the work of the drummer. In one of the best moments, he first challenged the bassist by playing chords in odd tempos and having his band member follow him—then doing the same with the drums, and it was a breathtaking exercise in creativity.

Other performers on the bill for the evening were pianist Kris Bowers and trumpeter Wallace Roney, who closed the evening with his orchestra.

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