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Jazz 14/01/2022

Saxophonist & Composer Melissa Aldana Set To Make Her Blue Note Debut With The March 4 Release Of 12 Stars

Saxophonist & Composer Melissa Aldana Set To Make Her Blue Note Debut With The March 4 Release Of 12 Stars
New York, NY (Top40 Charts) GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana will make her Blue Note Records debut with the March 4 release of 12 Stars, her remarkable first album as a leader for the legendary Jazz label. At 33, the Brooklyn-based tenor player from Santiago, Chile has garnered international recognition for her visionary work as a band leader, as well as her deeply meditative interpretation of language and vocabulary. 12 Stars was produced by guitarist Lage Lund, who also performs as part of a quintet with Sullivan Fortner on keyboards, Pablo Menares on bass, and Kush Abadey on drums. The album is available for pre-order now on vinyl, CD, or download.

12 Stars grapples with concepts of childrearing, familial forgiveness, acceptance, and self-love. "This is a really important album for me," says Aldana. "I felt like I had so much to say because of all the experiences I had during 2020. After the personal process I went through, I feel more connected to myself and my own imperfections - and I've discovered that it's the same process with music. Embracing everything I hear, everything I play - even mistakes - is more meaningful than perfection."

The album presents seven striking new original compositions by Aldana that were either or arranged or co-written by Lage including the dynamic opening piece "Falling," which is available stream or download today. Aldana explains was "the tune I was writing when I felt that everything in my life was falling apart." The piece introduces Lund's bold harmonic and textural presence immediately. Between statements and inquiries, Aldana develops her solo rapidly, Fortner's spontaneity connecting to hers at every turn.

Just before the lockdown, Aldana went through personal struggles with the end of a relationship. Alone in Harlem, she told herself she'd be busy for years, with plenty of distractions from dealing with her complex emotional response. "But then," she says, "the pandemic hit, and I hit bottom." She needed to make changes, so she turned inward. "Because of that personal process, I feel even more connected to my music."

Inspired by the arcs and nuances of tarot, 12 Stars features a series of tributes to moments of challenge and triumph in Aldana's New York life. "For some time, I had been very curious about tarot - the symbols, and the actual story of the tradition," she says. "So I took the lockdown as an opportunity to learn more about myself through the process of learning tarot, whose focus is the journey of an individual. As I studied the cards, I started writing music about each of them, individually. And I found that the process described on the tarot is a process that we all deal with somehow throughout our journey here on earth."

Aldana titled the album after the 12 stars that adorn The Empress' crown. "In numerology and tarot, The Empress is a symbol of creation," she says. "She represents my essence as an individual, and this entire journey."

Aldana has also announced extensive upcoming tour dates across the U.S. and Europe including her first-ever headlining week at the famed Village Vanguard in New York City from March 1-6. See below for a full list of tour dates.

Jan. 29 - Furman University - Greenville, SC (special guest artist)
Feb. 3-4 - Cuyahoga Community College - Cleveland, OH (with Jazz Gallery All-Stars)
Feb. 9 - Stevens Point Country Club - Stevens Point, WI
Feb. 10 - Gibson Music Hall - Appleton, WI
Feb. 11 - Logan Center Performance Hall - Chicago, IL.
Feb. 17-18 - University of Northern Iowa - Cedar Falls, IA (special guest with University of Northern Iowa Big Band)
Feb. 24 - USAF Band Airmen of Note Jazz Heritage Series - Washington DC (special guest artist)
Feb. 26 - McKinney Theatre - Mission Viejo, CA (special guest with Saddleback College Big Band)
March 1-6 - Village Vanguard - New York, NY
March 7 - Dizzy's Club @ Jazz at Lincoln Center - New York, NY (with New York Youth Symphony)
March 24 - Modlin Center for the Arts - Richmond, VA
March 26 - The Nash - Phoenix, AZ
March 28 - Caine Performance Hall - Logan, UT
March 30-April 3 - Jazz St. Louis - St. Louis, MO
April 7- University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, MI (special guest with University of Michigan Jazz Ensemble)
April 8 - Caffe Vivace - Cincinnati, OH
April 9 - The Jazz Kitchen - Indianapolis, IN
April 19 - Theater del'Athenee - Paris, France
April 21 - Teatro Ristori - Verona, Italy
April 23 - Jazz Dock - Prague, Czech Republic
April 24 - The Tivoli - Helsingborg, Sweden
April 25 - Stenhammarsalen - Goteborg, Sweden
April 27 - Club Atlantis - Basil, Switzerland
April 28 - Theater Russelsheim - Hessen, Germany
April 30 - Jazzahead - Bremen, Germany
May 13 - Exit Zero Jazz Festival - Cape May, NJ
Sept. 17 - Pittsburgh Jazz Festival - Pittsburgh, PA

Aldana was one of the founding members of ARTEMIS, the all-star collective that released their self-titled debut on Blue Note in 2020. The album featured Aldana's simmering composition "Frida," which was dedicated to Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, who inspired the musician through "her own process of finding self-identity through art."

Kahlo was also the subject of Aldana's celebrated 2019 album Visions (Motéma), which earned the saxophonist her first-ever GRAMMY nomination for Best Improvised Jazz Solo, an acknowledgement of her impressive tenor solo on her composition "Elsewhere." In naming Visions among the best albums of 2019 for NPR Music, critic Nate Chinen wrote that Aldana "has the elusive ability to balance technical achievement against a rich emotional palette."

Aldana was born in Santiago, Chile and grew up in a musical family. Both her father and grandfather were saxophonists, and she took up the instrument at age six under her father Marcos' tutelage. Aldana began on alto, influenced by artists such as Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, but switched to tenor upon first hearing the music of Sonny Rollins, who would become a hero and mentor. She performed in Santiago jazz clubs in her early teens and was invited by pianist Danilo Pérez to play at the Panama Jazz Festival in 2005.

Aldana moved to the U.S. to attend the Berklee College of Music, and the year after graduating she released her first album Free Fall on Greg Osby's Inner Circle label in 2010, followed by Second Cycle in 2012. In 2013, at 24, she became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, in which her father had been a semi-finalist in 1991. After her win, she released her third album Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord). Aldana is also an in-demand clinician and educator and has recently been appointed to the faculty of the New England Conservatory's Jazz Studies Department.

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