Twenty-two year old pianist Connie Han comes at you flashy, fast, and furious on her Mack Avenue debut Crime Zone. But it's flashy and fast with more than enough sense of history and creative curiosity to keep your ear pinned to whatever device you're listening on.
"Another Kind of Right" jumps from the start with short staccato bursts from Han that implore her born-in-the-groove bassist Edwin Livingston and drummer/producer/mentor Bill Wysaske to leap into the fray with her. Saxophonist Walter Smith III and trumpeter Brian Swartz begin winding around the groove and we're off to the races as Han's spirited solo shifts from acoustic to Rhodes, igniting flash-pots of post-bop and fusion. The time defying title track follows, with Han fully displaying a free-ranging, improvisatory flair and an inherent kinship with her instrument. Smith, to his credit, keeps up with and pushes her forward, towards the tune's exciting trio led false stops.
Han has no trouble letting all her musical gifts hold centerstage at appropriate times throughout Crime Zone, and her interpretive strengths prove formidable. "Pretty Women" from Stephen Soundheim's 1979 musical thriller Sweeney Todd gets an engaging read, as she leads Smith, Wysaske, and Livingston through a languid, effortless take. Ditto Joe Henderson's hard bopping "A Shade of Jade." Han, her left hand a polyrhythmic, percussive fury, just has her way here, soloing madly with a willful and youthful confidence.
"Southern Rebellion," another of the seven twisty Han/Wysaske originals, is a C-minor lightning strike, locking drummer and pianist in for a very heady run for the money as is "Extended Stay," another fun-house trio workout. Han proves plenty on her energetic and invigorating debut. Here's to her future and our appreciation of it.
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