By: Avzal Ismail
Connie Han “Crime Zone”
Record Label: Mack Avenue Records
Connie Han, CRIME ZONE. Mack Ave Records. Releasing 12 October 2018.
Ever so often, a new artist comes onto the jazz scene with the impact of a meteorite. Enter one Connie Han bringing a fire, passion, and maturity that belies her youth.
Her debut album “Crime Zone” which releases on my birthday on the 12 October is most certainly an exciting addition to the jazz library and is certain to make an impact to both young and old alike.
I first became aware of Connie after seeing an upload on social media of her a while back. I remember sharing it on my page as I normally do if something appeals to me. The second time was an upload with her playing the epic “Countdown” and this time, I sat up and took a serious look, sharing it again, raving like a lunatic knowing that there was an emerging new pianist that is going to go places. Here I was hearing Coltrane, McCoy, Bud Powell with a healthy dose of counterpoint playing. A new force was in the making and it was only a matter of time.
Come July and I was asked if I’d wanted to do a review of her debut album and naturally, I jumped at the opportunity. The album has been playing on repeat almost constantly since receiving it and each listen has revealed something new and refreshing. Ever had those albums where you never quite tired of listening? Well, the 10 track “Crime Zone” is such an album with Connie on Rhodes and Acoustic Piano, admirably supported by a sterling group of musicians in the personas of Edwin Livingston on bass, Bill Wysaske on drums, Walter Smith III on Tenor and Brian Swartz on trumpet on the first track.
This next generation pianist who hails from L.A. has created an edgy blend that combines the best of tradition while making forays into modern jazz and blending the two to create what is uniquely hers. Often one hears new players who sound as if they all came from the same classroom with the same licks and ideas…Not Connie. Here is an innovator with a fresh approach, fiery yet sensible. Fierce yet sensitive.
From the opening track “Another Kind of Right” to the up-tempo “Southern Rebellion” with brilliant drum solo all the way down to the Closing track “Extended Stay,” this is an exceptional album. Tight horn lines in the opening, and masterful performances all around, a beautiful rhythm section holding it all together, creating a canvas for the instrumentalists to paint on. Equally, at home on both acoustic piano and the Rhodes (a rarity these days), the ideas flow effortlessly in a highly creative deeply thought out way.
McCoy Tyner, Alan Broadbent, Warren Bernhard, Kenny Kirkland, Bob James, it’s all there and yet distinctly Connie Han…She has certainly absorbed the language to create her own freshly unique voice. To quote from the liner notes of the album which pretty much sums it up:
“On CRIME ZONE, Han has staked her claim as a fresh new voice on jazz piano, one whose sense of visual style might even draw audiences who normally wouldn’t listen to straight-ahead jazz. “Even though jazz is meant to be fearless in its creative limits, I strongly believe in preserving the musical foundation,” Han states. “As a new artist, I want to show that it is possible to create infinite fresh ideas without having to deconstruct the building blocks of the jazz language. To me, that language is universal.”
This is a worthy album to have in the collection. One that you will come back to repeatedly through the years. Buy it, listen to it, enjoy it. A new force in jazz has come to town!