It's amazing how clever and surehanded twenty-two-year-old jazz pianist Connie Han is at work on her brand-new debut album, Crime Zone Avenue, surrounded by her quartet members (In "Another Kind of Right" the trumpeter Brian Swartz joins the quartet) Edwin Livingston (bass), Walter Smith III (Tenor saxophone) and Bill Wysaske (drummer and producer of the album). Since the age of five, the daughter of Chinese US immigrants sits at the piano being active first in the classical repertoire, before she met as a teenager the drummer Bill Wysaske, who steered her firmly and permanently towards jazz:
“Because I never received training from a formal jazz piano teacher, most of my musical perspective actually came from interacting with a professional drummer when I was just a youngling, trying to hang on for dear life. I think that experience has given me a unique edge which informs the heavily percussive elements of my playing.”
The extent to which the characteristic percussive use of the left hand characterizes the jazz play of Connie Han can already be learned in the first title "Another Kind of Right" of her album, in which she vehemently first pushes the play of her colleagues on the piano in competition with the drums, who are responsible for the creation of the themes until Connie Han right-handedly intervenes into the development of the themes on the Rhodes. How a fusion of her vehemently wild, very imaginative development of themes with the right hand and the pounding bass of her left hand proceeds is impressively put down in the solo title "Shade Of Jade". This is followed with "Member This" accompanied by bass and drums a reminiscence of the relaxed style of famous jazz pianists of the past.
That Connie Han not only shines as a pianist, but also as a gifted songwriter is proved by seven of the ten titles of Crime Zone Mac Avenue from herself, to the drummer and producer of the album has contributed his part. Stephen Sondheim's "Pretty Women," Joe Henderson's "Shade Of Jade," and Duke Pearson's "Is That So?" prove that she also has a taste in her selection of three cover songs. The short song "Extended Stay" proves to be a particularly tasty candy in classical trio setting from the lucky bag of Connie Han. By means of this song the musicians turn the last lively, vivacious side of the album, happily dismissing the listener into his everyday life.
Crime Zone Mac Avenue turns out to be an extremely varied tour through the lucid jazz world of a very young pianist, who is able to convince with her independent playing style and great creative power. It will be interesting to see where her career will lead Connie Han in view of her early championship. She modestly sees herself as part of the current jazz scene and advocate of the traditional jazz:
“As a new artist, I want to show that it is possible to create infinite fresh ideas without having to deconstruct the building blocks of the jazz language. To me, that language is universal.”
Connie Han, piano, Fender Rhodes
Edwin Livingston, bass
Bill Wysaske, drums
Walter Smith III, tenor saxophone (on tracks 1-4, 9)
Brian Swartz, trumpet (on track 1)