Han is a glossy virtuosic performer…
Mack Avenue Records: MAC1193
Connie Han (piano, Fender Rhodes) Bill Wysaske (drums) John Patitucci (bass) Katisse Buckingham (piccolo, alto flute) Rich Perry (tenor sax)
Recorded at Sear Sound, New York, November 22-23, 2021
Who is Inanna? More to the point, given that this is my first encounter with her work, who is Connie Han? Turns out that Inanna is an ancient Mesopotamian goddess of love, war and fertility and from the attitude Ms Han strikes in her cover portrait it would appear that she considers herself to be a creature of the same ilk.
More importantly for our purposes though is how she measures up as a jazz pianist and, happily, what at first sight appears as an exercise of style over substance is, on playing the disc, found to be a perfect marriage of the two.
For her third album with Mack Avenue, Han has chosen to clothe her music in the mythological saga known as `The Descent of Inanna` in which the goddess makes a symbolic journey through trials and tribulations towards re-birth as a super deity.
Does one detect a feminist trope here? Each of the pieces, apart from two covers, no doubt selected for their compatibility with the overarching theme, are original compositions by the pianist and her drummer cum musical director, Bill Wysaske and bear titles that relate to events and characters from Inanna’s story. None of this, however, need detain the devoted jazz fan for the music communicates on its own level without the need of narrative support though I doubt the Mack Avenue marketing department would agree.
Han is a glossy virtuosic performer, whose style echoes that of Chick Corea; his piece `Desert Air` is one of the aforementioned covers, and she is joined in this enterprise by two big beasts of the jazz fraternity, namely John Patitucci, whose mobile bass lines maintain a firm, perpetual momentum, and Rich Perry, late of the Clayton/Hamilton and Maria Schneider orchestras; a tenor player who purveys a warm toned, clearly articulated dialogue, not given to histrionic extremities.
Together they provide a welcome gravitas which grounds the music comfortably in modern mainstream territory and counterbalances the more cutting edge impulses wrought by Han and the vigorous Wysaske. In a series of quartet, trios and duo formats including a technically impressive solo spot for the drummer they groove and soothe their way through a stimulating set of music that displays all the best characteristics of what we expect to hear in contemporary jazz. The flautist’s contribution is confined to the opening and closing numbers which serve as exotic bookends to the mythic concept.
Reviewed by Euan Dixon