Connie Han: Iron Starlet

In brief:
"Connie Han is a firm believer in preserving the jazz tradition but she shows in this album how it’s possible to create fresh ideas 'without needing to deconstruct the building blocks of the jazz language'. In short, Iron Starlet is a fine example of contemporary mainstream jazz"

Twenty-four-year-old pianist and composer Connie Han is based in Los Angeles. Iron Starlet is her third album. Her first, The Richard Rodgers Songbook, was self-published five years ago. Subsequently, Mack Avenue Records signed her up and in 2018 she made Crime Zone – a tribute to her piano idols Kenny Kirkland, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner.

Han is something of a piano wunderkind. Her parents are classical musicians and they encouraged her to begin piano lessons at the age of five. At high school she was mentored by one of her teachers, drummer Bill Wysaske, and when she began her professional career at the early age of 17 he became her trio’s musical director. Most of Han’s jazz perspective emanates from this relationship and it informs the heavily percussive elements of her playing.

Advertisement

Iron Starlet has five originals from Han, three from Wysaske and two standards, Detour Ahead and Hello To The Wind. The album is top-quality post-bop with complex chord changes and imaginative soloing from all.

Its scorching title track has Pelt in Freddie Hubbard mode with tight piano and drums. Nova is soulful with sensitive Rhodes from Han and mellow sax and trumpet. The snappy Mr Dominator has Han hinting at early Herbie Hancock while in Mr O.G. her concise piano attack recalls McCoy Tyner. Smith glows on sax in Joe Chambers’ Hello To The Wind while Han nods distinctly to Chick Corea.

Wysaske’s superb arrangement of Detour Ahead has atmospheric arco bass with Han recalling Bill Evans until she entwines her own take on the song. Captain’s Song is a gentle ballad featuring Pelt on trumpet (Captain was the name of Wysaske’s dog). The brawny Boy Toy has blazing sax while The Forsaken has graceful piano, soft bass and whispering brushwork. Finally, Han lets rip, Kenny Kirkland style, on the uptempo Dark Chambers with Smith and Pelt in blistering pursuit.

Connie Han is a firm believer in preserving the jazz tradition but she shows in this album how it’s possible to create fresh ideas “without needing to deconstruct the building blocks of the jazz language”. In short, Iron Starlet is a fine example of contemporary mainstream jazz.

Discography
Iron Starlet; Nova; Mr Dominator; For the O.G.; Hello To The Wind; Detour Ahead; Captain’s Song; Boy Toy; The Forsaken; Dark Chambers (63.02)
Han (p) (org); Walter Smith III (ts); Jeremy Pelt (t); Ivan Taylor (b); Bill Wysaske (d). New York, 16-17 August 2019.
Mack Avenue 1171

Advertisement
Advertisement

Jazz Journal articles by month

Advertisement

Massimiliano Coclite 4Tet: Strange People

JazzIt magazine regularly lists Coclite as "amongst the principal Italian crooners". There’s no crooning on Strange People, but there is plenty of lyrical, melodic, instrumental jazz
Advertisement

Obituary: Ellis Marsalis Jr.

Born in New Orleans on 14 November 1934, Ellis Louis Marsalis, pianist and jazz educator, died from complications of Covid-19 in his...
Advertisement

Mulligan memories, part 1

Arlyne Brown (songwriter Lew Brown’s daughter) was married to Gerry Mulligan during the 1950s and for a while she was also his...
Advertisement

Jazz Transatlantic: The African Undercurrent In Twentieth-Century Jazz Culture

Gerhard Kubik is a doyen of ethnomusicological research into jazz and African music. His masterwork comprises two simultaneously published volumes, the product...
Advertisement

Bullets and Ballads: Pete Kelly’s Blues

When film music historians discuss the increasing influence of jazz on movie soundtracks through the 1940s and into the 1950s, they usually...
Advertisement

JJ 12/89: Miles Davis – Aura

Miles and a Big Band? Sketches of Denmark? An unreleased masterpiece designed to restore Miles' flagging reputation? Well, yes, no and not...