7) Sarah Manning - Dandelion Clock (Posi-Tone)
Sarah Manning is part of the ever-growing population of highly-educated young musicians making a go at the jazz life in New York, armed with years of practice, a few big-name mentors, and lots of ambition. Dandelion Clock, Manning's third release and first on the impressive Posi-Tone label, is evidence of the incredibly high level of musicianship coming out of that scene.
Manning the alto saxophonist and Manning the composer are both on display here. As a saxophonist her sound is striking, robust, and immediate. The melodies she writes for herself are memorable and perfectly suited to her distinct voice on the sax. She's also careful to compose thoughtful accompaniment parts for the rhythm section, effectively turning her quartet into a small post-bop orchestra. On "Crossing, Waiting," for instance, the rhythm section careens back and forth between a steady pedal tone and frantic free-bop, mirroring the contour of the saxophone melody.
Manning's band consists of pianist Art Hirahara, drummer Kyle Struve and bassist Linda Oh, whose excellent 2009 album, Entry, made a lot of jazz critics' best-of-'09 lists. It's quite clear from listening that Dandelion Clock wasn't a one-off recording session by musicians who haven't spent much time together. The lines of communication between band members are fluid and open, the rhythm section often subtly changing feels based on what Hirahara or Manning are playing in their solos.
Critics often decry the current generation's lack of passion or originality; with Dandelion Clock, Sarah Manning and her cohorts have proven that technical facility and book smarts can still lead to interesting, risky, and ultimately enjoyable music.
Further reading: A nice AllAboutJazz interview with Manning
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