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A fascinating paradox defines Echoes Of The Inner Prophet, Melissa Aldana’s follow-up to her acclaimed Blue Note Records debut as a leader, 2022’s 12 Stars. As the GRAMMY-nominated saxophonist and composer explains, her new album reflects her “personal journey, with an especially introspective point of view. The inner prophet is my own self, now older, who has the knowledge and the intuition and the truth about what my path should be.

“So it’s this idea of connecting with that inner prophet,” she continues, “which reveals things about myself, including those things I don’t like.”

At the same time, this deeply intimate, searching project is a celebration of collaboration and community. It documents the evolution of her quintet — Lage Lund, guitar and effects; Fabian Almazan, piano and effects; Pablo Menares, bass; Kush Abadey, drums — capturing the collective insight they’ve garnered after extensive touring and travel, and arguing for their place among the most incisive working groups in jazz today.

The album also furthers Aldana’s uniquely symbiotic kinship with Lund, who serves as her arranger and co-producer, and with whom she shares the rarest “trust and openness.” What’s more, Echoes Of The Inner Prophet features two heartfelt dedications to figures who made Aldana’s musical life possible.

The album’s title track pays homage to Wayne Shorter, the late modern-jazz pioneer (and Blue Note cornerstone) who sat on the judges’ panel at the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition that Aldana won in 2013. At the time, she’d been based in New York for a few years after relocating from her native Chile by way of Berklee, which she attended on a full scholarship at the encouragement of Shorter’s pianist, Danilo Pérez. The Monk victory kick-started her ascent and rapidly made her one of jazz’s most respected and important new voices.

Though the impact of Sonny Rollins on Aldana’s playing is well documented, it is Shorter’s aura that looms largest throughout Echoes, particularly in the way Aldana’s writing and improvising offer constant, sometimes demanding surprises while maintaining a highly listenable allure. Her interest in Shorter’s music, while lifelong, has ramped up over the past few years — a reflection of the themes of maturation and never-ending discovery that Aldana explores throughout Echoes. “As I’ve grown older,” she begins, “I think I can relate to his music and his playing in a way that maybe I couldn’t when I was younger.” For Aldana, that means absorbing Shorter’s lessons on the “use of space, the storytelling, how you communicate, how you paint.

“When I think about Wayne,” she adds, “I think about colors.” Fittingly, the track “Echoes Of The Inner Prophet” is an impressionistic wash of shifting hues, a tone poem given a swirling, transcendent electronics-filled climax. For Aldana, it evokes “being in the middle of the ocean in the dark of night — and then you see a whale come up and you hear that low note hitting.”

Cone of Silence,” a dedication to veteran recording engineer James Farber, has cheekier origins — though its shadowy earworm of a melody upholds Aldana’s knack for compositional mystery. As Aldana tells it, she purchased a soundproof practice booth for her New York apartment, which prompted Farber to cue up a clip of the classic “Cone of Silence” bit from the ’60s sitcom Get Smart. Farber, who recorded and mixed Echoes, is the “one person that knows my sound and can capture it,” Aldana says. “And he’s the only person I’ve been in the studio with where I feel I can just focus on the music — because I know that whatever he’s going to do will only embrace what we’re going to do.”

Another musical partnership Aldana describes with palpable gratitude is her connection to Lund, who also counts a Monk competition win as his breakout moment. On Echoes, the Norwegian-born guitarist reprises the integral collaborative role he held on 12 Stars. As Aldana explains, Lund’s contributions include two inspired elements that could be considered unusual in small-group modern jazz: post-production ingenuity, which includes electronic effects that tastefully expand the genre’s sonics; and arranging, which includes an aspect of co-writing. “I let Lage find out what he hears in the tune that I’m not hearing,” Aldana says. “We’ve talked about this idea of writing good tunes — not just a tune and a solo, but good through-composed tunes that have a story and have a personality. And even though I don’t have lyrics, the harmony is the way I can express the emotion of the tune or the vibe of the story. So his job was to basically take the tune and find that personality and give them shape.”

The result is an album that presents small-group 21st-century jazz at the peak of its powers, and overflows with engaging dualities. Tunes like “Unconscious Whispers,” “A Story,” “The Solitary Seeker” and “A Purpose” are enigmatic, koanlike, intellectually rigorous music that somehow also feels gratifying and compels the listener onward. The performances are often furiously kinetic but convey their intensity with expertly controlled dynamics that smolder rather than shout.

Likewise, the soloists attack with equal parts strength and grace. Aldana improvises as if offering a comprehensive history of the jazz tenor saxophone — from Hawkins and Rollins through the feathery, wending lines of Charles Lloyd and the composed harmonic command of Mark Turner. (Her assessment of Lund could be turned inward: “a very expressive guitar player rooted in tradition but still very personal in his approach, and extremely musical.”) The other musicians’ writing contributions — Lund’s “I Know You Know” and Menares’ “Ritual,” which conjures up the melodically glorious Brazilian singer-songwriter Guinga — seem wholly of a piece with Aldana’s aesthetic.

That aesthetic is one with a profound relation to the legacy of Blue Note Records — to Rollins’ work for the label, but especially to Wayne Shorter’s beguiling post-bop of the mid-’60s. “I grew up listening to so many Blue Note albums,” Aldana says, “so to be a part of that family, that lineage, is a huge honor.”

Like Shorter, Aldana is an unfailingly committed musician who never stops studying and practicing and thinking. And she says her Blue Note heritage could play a big part in her next move. “I’ve been transcribing some of Freddie Hubbard’s recordings with Wayne Shorter, and there’s so much history and so much influence I’ve gotten from these recordings,” Aldana says. “When I transcribe I go in-depth, and it’s always an evolution that could take years and changes the way I hear music and the way I play the saxophone. So I’m sure whatever the next album is going to be will be a result of that work.”