Anna Koroleva: Antigravity

The Russian saxophonist has an assured post-bop-to-contemporary approach and probably would have chimed with Sonny Criss and Art Pepper

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Anna Koroleva was born into a musical family in Krasnodar, Russia in 1980. When she was five years old she was given a Glenn Miller record, her introduction to jazz – quite some way, one can say with confidence, from the improvisational fervour of the Ganelin Trio which toured Britain and the USA in the mid-1980s.

Koroleva developed quickly. She came to the contemporary jazz world in 1998 and would eventually play with, e.g., Jimmy Heath, Gary Bartz, Christian McBride and Bobby Watson, appearing at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2004. Her first record All Right, OK, You Win contained a tribute to Elvin Jones, long her favourite musician.

Antigravity, her latest release, shows that Anna Koroleva has become one very fine player. She has a full and strong sound on the alto saxophone and an assured, post-bop-to-contemporary approach to matters of melodic exposition, shifting register and rhythmic diversity.

I have a strong feeling that Sonny Criss and Art Pepper would both have really appreciated her work: hear her burn on 14, get down and soulful on Blues Waltz and sear and soar both within and across the measured figures of the aptly titled AntiGravity.

She also has a pleasing compositional capacity for matters lyrical and atmospheric: sample the brushes-caressed Feeling Of Autumn or the richly turned introductory piano clusters and subsequent inner-directed and questing alto lyricism of Moon Man.

All the compositions here are by Koroleva (who, incidentally, is also a singer and plays keyboards). They are delivered with both considerable zest and astute attention to detail with the help of some excellent work from a fine trio: hear Chernakova’s lengthy pizzicato outing, matched by Barotin’s cascading pianism, on the lightly funky Agua De Coco.

Despite the strong American influence on her development – and the fact that, for all the considerable improvisational flair of her playing, she remains a considerable distance from any Ganelin-like approach – one might reasonably wonder if there is not a strong Russian seam of soul and spirit in such invigorating, boldly conceived and strikingly rendered music as Koroleva and her cohorts treat us to here.

Discography
Meet Today; 14, Feeling Of Autumn; Agua De Coco; Blues Waltz; Antigravity; Moon Man (46.38)
Koroleva (as); Anton Barotin (p); Daria Chernakova (b); Vartan Babayan (d). Moscow, c. 2021.
Jazzist JZT CD 002