Medium: Crime Zone Review

“Connie Han’s Mack Avenue Records debut comes on like a wrecking ball, leaving the listener wrecked — in a good way.

Crime Zone is a lusty, liberating post-bop-to-modern-jazz album, featuring the L.A.-pianist, 22, at her best, along with mentor, producer, musical director, and drummer Bill Wysaske, and bassist Edwin Livingston. Tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and trumpeter Brian Swartz more than meet the standards, ramping up the hard-hitting music with their own larger-than-life, dizzying personalities.

When I first listened to Han’s Crime Zone, sight unseen, I couldn’t tell if she played piano or sax. In fact, I initially mistook the album as a saxophone showcase. What it is, is an atypical jazz showcase, demanded and expected at every late-night jam session around every hip urban town, where everyone in the band takes turns in the spotlight — and never wants to leave.

Han’s well-trained musical background — her parents are classical musicians who instilled a love of music early — seeps into every track, original or cover, honoring the hard-hitting jazz icons of the past (Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson) and introducing a few new steps along the way.

Every track is fully realized, a complete concert in and of itself. It’s like sitting in on the best jam session in the world after a three-day festival blowout, with all the big names showing the newbies the score… Only, the big names are really coming out of one fantastic young jazz artist hungry to make her mark.

Han lays claim and lays waste to every single tune on her Oct. 12 release, whether she’s coming out sideways, inside-out, or straight on. Even the ballads contain rhythmic percussive quirks, borrowing from the wide-open manipulation of free jazz’s use of time and space, bordering on exquisite torture…as the listener is dying for the next series of unexpected, crackling turns.”

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