On her first jazz quartet "Visions", award-winning saxophonist Melissa Aldana connects her work to the legacy of Latina artists who have come before her, creating a pathway for her own expression. Inspired by the life and works of Frida Kahlo, Aldana creates a parallel between her experiences as a female saxophone player in a male-dominated community, and Kahlo’s experiences as a female visual artist working to assert herself in a landscape dominated by men. On her first jazz quartet recording, Aldana adds a new dimension to her sound, resulting in a transformative movement of expression and self-identity.
Aldana was born in Santiago, Chile. She began playing the saxophone when she was six, under the influence and tuition of her father Marcos Aldana, also a professional saxophonist. Aldana began with alto, influenced by artists such as Charlie Parker, Cannonball Adderley, and Michael Brecker. However, upon first hearing the music of Sonny Rollins, she switched to tenor; the first tenor saxophone she used was a Selmer Mark VI that had belonged to her grandfather.
She started performing in Santiago jazz clubs in her early teens. In 2005, after meeting him while he was on tour in Chile, she was invited by pianist Danilo Pérez to play at the Panama Jazz Festival, as well as a number of auditions at music schools in the USA. As a result of these introductions, she went on to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where her tutors included Joe Lovano, George Garzone, Frank Tiberi, Greg Osby, Hal Crook, Bill Pierce, and Ralph Peterson
Aldana graduated from Berklee in 2009, relocating to New York City to study under George Coleman. She recorded her first album, Free Fall, released on Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music imprint in 2010. Her live shows in this period included performances at the Blue Note Jazz Club and the Monterey Jazz Festival, and her second album, Second Cycle, was released in 2012. In 2013, aged 24, she was the first female musician 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. The prize was a $25,000 scholarship, and a recording contract with Concord Jazz. Reporting her win, the Washington Post described Aldana as representing "a new sense of possibility and direction in jazz".
VISIONS FEATURED IN NPR “BEST ALBUMS OF 2019 (SO FAR)”
Melissa Aldana’s album Visions has been featured as part of NPR Music’s “Best of 2019 (So Far)” list!
Melissa Aldana, a Chilean-born tenor saxophonist, has the elusive ability to balance technical achievement against a rich emotional palette. Visions, her finest album, was inspired by the inner life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo; it's a brilliant showcase for a band that includes this year's breakout star, Joel Ross, on vibraphone. — Nate Chinen, WBGO
Melissa Aldana is one of Paste Magazine’s “12 women influencing the future of jazz”
“With Visions, the Santiago native delivers with passionate intensity on pieces inspired by and dedicated to Mexican artist Frida Kahlo.” – Bill Milkowski, Paste Magazine
Melissa Aldana was featured in the Paste Magazine article “12 Women Influencing the Future of Jazz” by Bill Milkowski.
Melissa Aldana Featured in Vanity Fair “Sisters of Swing”
Melissa Aldana was featured in the Vanity Fair article “Sisters of Sing” along with a handful of other female jazz musicians including Melissa’s bandmates in the all-women supergroup Artemis.
Melissa Aldana Featured in WBGO Take 5
“Each album by tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, going back almost a decade, has been stronger than the last. Her forthcoming effort, Visions, will be no exception: it’s a smart, contemporary statement coming from a place of personal reflection . . . There’s a deep synthesis of modern style here, and it extends throughout the album” – Nate Chinen, WBGO
Nate Chinen featured Melissa Aldana in his article “Visions and Visionaries: The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Melissa Aldana, Ben Monder and More.”
UK Vibe review gives Melissa aldana’s ‘visions’ 5/5
“‘Visions’ marks a huge creative step forward for Melissa Aldana and her Quintet – it’s a stunning release and a huge win for Motéma Music. You have to believe that Melissa Aldana’s skill and passion will, in time to come, see her the subject for a new generation of artists looking to her for their own source of inspiration.”– Imran Mirza, UKVibe
Imran Mirza reviews Melissa Aldana’s new album ‘Visions’
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Qoutes and Testimonials:
“Her tone is as beautiful as her personality... I am sure you will agree.” – Jimmy Heath
“ . . . one of the more exciting young tenor saxophonists today” – The New York Times
“ . . . cultured, emotionally weighted, purposeful.” – The Boston Globe
“In her deft use of light and shade, colour and line, serenity and abandon, Melissa Aldana is a painter . . . an incisive yet melodic sound that’s all her own, and now she’s using that sound to pay homage to a special source of inspiration: the great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo.” – Alexander Varty, Georgia Straight
"With its richly textured soundscapes and emotionally arresting material, Visions makes a clear connection to Kahlo and other Latina pathbreakers past and present... Melissa Aldana [is] a bandleader and musician at the top of her game." – Brian Zimmerman, Jazziz Magazine
“... such a monumental statement... Aldana and Ross’ ferocious exploration of the song’s theme that displays the deft musicality Visions showcases over 12 cuts.” – Dave Cantor, DownBeat Magazine
“ . . . inspired as much by her musical idols Charlie Parker and Wayne Shorter as visual artists like Ecuadorian painter and sculptor Oswaldo Guayasamin and the great Frida Kahlo. The album is a tour de force combining jazz and Latina pride into something vital and exciting.” – Stuart Derdeyn, The Vancouver Sun
“Although she can also play rough and powerful, Aldana usually chooses a more lyrical tenor sound. That fits perfectly with the kind of atmospheric compositions that she writes. With the help of pianist Sam Harris in particular, Aldana brings the meek melodies to life in a magnificent way” – Trouw (Dutch National Newspaper)
"Visions, the fifth effort from Melissa Aldana, is the most ambitious work to date by the 2013 Monk Saxophone Competition winner, a further excursion into Frida Kahlo-inspired compositions that began with a residency commission from The Jazz Gallery. Aldana's band is a quintet of vibraphonist Joel Ross, pianist Sam Harris, bassist Pablo Menares and drummer Tommy Crane. The inclusion of chordal instruments in contrast to her previous pianoless trio outings serves Aldana's distinctive compositional voice, one marked by consummate harmonic acuity." – Russ Musto, The New York City Jazz Record
“Her playing is subtle and elegant and of a highly melodic nature . . . the colorful palette on display here is everything other than inconspicuous. It has the flashy traits of fauvism mixed with the neon of Warhol and a graceful finish like fine brush strokes on canvas . . . Melissa Aldana's Visions proves itself a highlight of this year.” – Friedrich Kunzmann, All About Jazz
“Throughout jazz history, we've heard plenty of tenor saxophone, some of it at genius level, designed to exploit a tendency to talk to oneself. Aldana gives us something else . . . Her inventiveness is nonstop . . . ‘Visions’ helps to further Aldana's reputation for outstanding creative drive on an instrument that has long tended to be overrepresented in jazz. Her skill as a bandleader and composer should keep her profile high.” – Jay Harvey, Upstage
“Artists who captivate listeners time and again are the ones who make themselves vulnerable and uncomfortable. They disrupt themselves intentionally. Melissa Aldana’s expression is rare and wildly evolving as she continues to reach for more.” – Hot House Magazine
Quotes collected courtesy of Red Cat Publicity