Annie Chen Octet — Secret Treetop
(Shanghai Audio & Video, 2018, CD / DL)
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-01-02
Jazz as an art form may have been born in the US, but over the century or so (no need to be more precise) of its existence, it has reached all over the world, and people from different backgrounds and cultures bring their own ideas to the music. If you regard jazz more as a method of producing music than a set of standard pieces that musicians assemble, the music stretches far and wide, pretty much everywhere improvisation blends with composition. Annie Chen is a singer who was born in Beijing and grew up on Western as well as Chinese classical music, but when she heard jazz her horizons opened up and she pursued a dream that included ideas from far beyond those beginnings. Secret Treetop is her second album as leader, and features influences from many parts of the world. The opening track is heavily Turkish-inflected in both melody and rhythm, and two pieces are sung in Chinese, one song from Taiwan and the other from Mongolia. Japan also features, with a pair of tracks inspired by anime and literature. Her band is likewise international, with Polish guitarist Rafał Sarnecki handling arranging duties; violinist Tomoko Omura is from Japan and the trumpet is played by a Canadian, David Smith. The other four are Americans: Glenn Zaleski (piano), Alex LoRe (alto saxophone, flute), Mat Muntz (bass), and Jerad Lippi (drums). Chen’s voice, whether interpreting lyrics or sailing free of words, is treated as another instrument, and she’s an extraordinary singer, with good range and intonation, and her inflections sometimes touch on jazz styles, but also range into less fettered areas. The other musicians are outstanding as well, with Omura’s violin especially impressive. There are too many wonderful moments on Secret Treetop to call out individually — every track has a different flavor and all have standout features, whether in individual performances or beautiful interactions. It’s a very impressive work from start to finish, with qualities that won over this jazz fan who generally doesn’t enjoy jazz vocalists.
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more
Thierry Zaboitzeff - Dr. Zab & His Robotic Strings Orchestra – Zaboitzeff is the bass guitarist/cellist for Art Zoyd. This solo project shows him in a more electronic setting, as it is done mostly using synths and sequencers. There are 22 tracks of varying length... (1993) » Read more