All About Jazz Album Review: Crime Zone

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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Musical Memoirs: CRIME ZONE Review

“Connie Han is an exceptional pianist with a style and a presentation all her own.”

“And polyrhythmic she is! This is one of those recordings that just seems to get better and better as it progresses. Here is a young, blossoming pianist who doesn’t just play expertly, but she has a passion brightly burning in her presentations. As she flowers, her obvious talent is glowing successfully, like a sunrise peeking through a cloudy morning.”

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“An album that bears the mark of the passion of a young pianist with clever audacity. Listening, however, which carries the risk of an addiction, the audacity of the young Connie Han and its provocative nature make the stranger more exciting and the percussion of his game so alluring. A Crime Zone which one would like to tread too often, for the happiness of the senses. We strongly recommend it.” (Translated from French)

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"Rising Stars: The Beginning of the Han Dynasty" in All About Jazz

View Connie Han's full profile here at An excerpt below: 

"'Jazz can't be Jazz unless it has rich roots but is also pushing boundaries.' Inspired by the 'young lions' of the 1990s (Kenny Kirkland, Wynton Marsalis, et al. Not actual lions), she's bringing a new voice to the conventional language of Our Music. This reflects my own philosophy regarding my place as Your Own Personal Genius. Like Connie, I wish to remain steeped in the tradition of those who came before me while forging a new path all my own. Unlike Connie, I'm not a 21-year-old Jazz wunderkind from Los Angeles. 

It should be mentioned, at this point, that my admiration for Connie's work does not stem from her obvious loveliness. While one would have to be blind not to notice her beauty, it is her talent alone that brought her here. I do not consider the appearance of my subjects when I choose to profile them. And, as a heterosexual male, I am unable to gauge the physical appearance of my male subjects. But then, Our Music is not known as a haven for pretty people with minimal talent, like pop music. Connie is an intelligent, articulate, gifted artist who just happens to be very attractive (in my opinion. And I'll fight the man who says different). 

Back to the point. 

With an appearance at the Arturo Sandoval Jazz Festival completed, Connie has a lineup of gigs in her future. It goes without saying that I recommend you get out and see her perform if you can. And if you are in Los Angeles and do get out, do me a favor and enjoy a French dip sandwich at Phillipe's for me. I'm stuck in a place where the only French dip available is at Arby's, and the local Jazz scene consists mostly of a guy who claims to have once given Maria Schneider a hickey. 

Connie Han represents a new force in Our Music that will safely carry it into the next generation alive and well. She is a living certainty that we will not go the way of skiffle or klezmer. As long as there are young people out there taking up the banner of Our Music, Jazz will continue to be the voice of an America that still exists beyond the current socio-political hysteria that separates us. 

Meanwhile, back at the ranch. 

We're pleased to announce that Connie just signed a recording deal with Mack Avenue Records, and should be releasing an album soon which we here at AAJ will diligently review for your edification. I, for one, am greatly looking forward to its release and adding the CD to the 'Dome's permanent collection, both because I enjoy her music and because I want to be able to say I was into her on the ground floor before her inevitable rise to the stratosphere of today's Jazz world. As hipster-ish as it may sound, I want to be able to say that I was into her before almost anyone. Certainly, before those slackers over at those other Jazz websites. That's why they call us All About Jazz, we don't do anything half-assed. "