Jazz Views with CJ Shearn: Connie Han Trio at Jazz Standard, NYC, 7/23/19 Review

"23 year old pianist Connie Han made a splash last year with her major label debut, Crime Zone on Detroit based Mack Avenue Records. The label filled a void left by Warner Brothers Jazz in the mid to late 90’s and early 00’s for very exciting acoustic jazz. On July 23, 2019 at New York City’s Jazz Standard, the Connie Han Trio featuring Ivan Taylor on bass, and long time musical director and producer, Bill Wysaske on the drums, held court for a couple hours exhilarating jazz. Han’s entry point, and general area of musical interest the young lions movement of the 1980’s and 1990’s has helped to reassess the music of that era and create something fresh within. Ethan Iverson’s illuminating interview with Wynton Marsalis and his blog post, The J Word also brought much needed attention to this period in jazz, which by detractors is dismissed as “neo bop” (a silly term) but there’s much more to the music than that, Han’ s continuing maturity and growth as an improviser and writer was on full display, and she is completely authentic in the idiom, with a complete understanding of the history and social reasons behind it.

Over the course of two sets, the pianist proved her continuing growth of her craft by playing a mix of forthcoming music for an album being recorded in August, with her new compositions, a classic Mulgrew Miller tune, and tunes composed by Stephen Sondheim and Bill Wysaske. The trio unit is so locked into each other they operate as one voice, particularly with Wysaske responding to Han’s every move. Taylor grooved, expanded and contracted as the moment called for. Han’s tough originals of both night’s sets were impressive: her brand new “Iron Starlet” churned with a shuttling melody bolstered by a smoldering left hand in unison with Taylor’s bass, Han spun several choruses of deeply swinging lines that only grew in intensity as Wysaske’s comping locked in like a homing laser. She swung with elegance and fire on Mulgrew Miller’s “The Sequel” effortlessly mixing behind the beat asides, classic jazz slang, funky grace notes, and double time with an unshakeable confidence. Han knows the tradition, backwards and forwards, but says so many fresh things within that paradigm. Although her hard swinging gets the most attention, she is a superb interpreter of more lyrical material."

View the complete review here.