The combination of harp and urban jazz sounds so catchy that one might well ask why this recipe has not been tried and tested before. Harpist Brandee Younger has performed on various pop stages (with John Legend, Common and Beyoncé, among others), as a session musician but also in classical concert halls. On her debut album for the jazz label Impulse she sounds relaxed and energetic at the same time. Younger’s elegant, melodious harp playing is prominent in the soundscape. Her sparkling clear tones illuminate the solid base of pulsing bass and tight beats. Younger’s harp improvisations have a spiritual nature, but her groovy backing band keeps both feet on the ground.
Dezron Douglas’ and Chelsea Baratz’ saxophones give the music a sharp edge, while Anne Drummond’s flute playing dances somewhere in between. This is ideal party music for a long summer evening. A notable contribution on this album is ‘Pretend’, sung and rapped by Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball. This song proves that harp and hip-hop can go hand in hand as well.
Somewhere Different sounds like the ideal musical mix of the moment. It is therefore also to Brandee Younger’s credit that she shows respect for the jazz tradition and invited double bass veteran Ron Carter to play on a few songs. Carter’s decades of experience can be heard in every note, both bowed and plucked. As the album progresses, the music becomes more intimate, the line-up smaller and the jazz content higher. With this album, Brandee Younger follows in the footsteps of harpist Alice Coltrane, who recorded her albums on this same label. Alice Coltrane (1937 – 2007) also gave her music a spiritual charge, following the footsteps of her husband, saxophonist John Coltrane. Brandee Younger translates this improvised inspiration to the 21st century and does so amazingly well. Somewhere Different is one of the best jazz albums of this year.
Brandee Younger – Impulse