Perhaps the most impressive aspect of So Here We Are is the immense stylistic assurance that exudes from the prodigiously gifted musician and saxophonist Alison Young. Her performance on these nine songs of the album is fleet-footed without sounding pressured to show off her chops – something she has in spades – or rushed. With sashaying lines that sometimes break out into effervescent ones, Miss Young gives the appearance (outward, at least) of being a swan gliding along even if there is some furious paddling going on under the surface and this no matter what kind of saxophone she is playing. As a listening audience we are bedazzled by the music and the spectacle of it all. And with very good reason.
This is an album featuring beautifully crafted arrangements of beguiling variety and sensuousness in every lovingly caressed phrase. Miss Young’s chosen material is a judicious mix of originals and also includes three familiar standards, including Duke Ellington and Barney Bigard’s “Mood Indigo” (without Irving Mills’ lyrics). When you listen to Miss Young’s version you might understand why. Instead of playing it in its famous, profoundly meditative arrangement, Miss Young casts caution to the proverbial winds and, still staying true to the elegiac nature of the song, she interprets it as if she were at a Jazz Funeral in New Orleans, complete with the extravagant Second Line rhythmic “return”. One cannot help marveling at the gumption with which such as near-sacred piece is played.
But Miss Young is not one to be drawn to the sentimentality of “straight ahead” Jazz. Instead she uses her considerable skill as a composer to worship at the altar of originality melodically and harmonically while showing-off her considerable understanding and rhythmic facility of the pulse and idiom of Jazz. Her compositions are, quite simply, breathtaking. And she plays each with her considerable instrumental virtuosity. Listening to the way in which Miss Young sculpts the long sustained invention of “Cedar Roots” and how she seductively bends the notes in her ballad, “First Goodbye” it’s clear that there’s not a semiquaver that hasn’t been fastidiously considered.
The recording also featured the inimitable Guido Basso on flugelhorn, playing with familiar mesmerism on “Celia & Harry” and on the standard “Exactly Like You”. On the latter Miss Young lends the mellifluous timbre of her voice to Dorothy Fields’ lyric with spacious elegance. The rest of the band includes guitarist and co-producer Eric St-Laurent who is magical in both departments. Bassist Ross MacIntyre; Chris Wallace and Sly Juhas share drumming duties and both show their considerable skill as percussion colourists. Pianist Jeff McLeod completes this outstanding ensemble who are completely attuned to Miss Young’s vision and artistry as everyone plays this wonderful music with equal measures of introspection and fantasy.
Track list – 1: Cedar Roots; 2: Celia & Harry; 3: Afterparty; 4: So Here We Are; 5: Exactly Like You; 6: Here’s That Rainy Day; 7: One Night Stan; 8: First Goodbye; 9: Mood Indigo
Personnel – Alison Young: soprano saxophone (8), alto saxophone (1 – 3, 5 – 7), tenor saxophone (4, 9) and vocals (5); Eric St-Laurent: guitar; Jeff McLeod: piano and Hammond B3 organ; Ross MacIntyre: bass; Sly Juhas: drums (3, 7, 9); Chris Wallace: drums (1, 2, 4 – 6, 8); Guido Basso: flugelhorn (2, 5)
Released – 2019
Label – Triplet Records (TR 10023)
Runtime – 44:51