Susanne Alt: Royalty For Real

New J.B.'s saxophonist focuses on cool funk sounds in this Roy Hargrove tribute, but also showcases her considerable bebop chops


Amsterdam-based German saxophonist Susanne Alt is known for her work in the jazz-funk area of the music, and many will be familiar with her assertive playing with Fred Wesley and the New JB’s or in the all-female group Venus Tunes.

This release is dedicated to Roy Hargrove and appropriately begins with Roy Allan, which the late trumpeter recorded on his album Family in 1995. However, here the character of the tune has changed from an attractive Wayne Shorter-ish modal composition to a jazz-fusion style version, Alt soloing strongly, overdubbed in part.

Unfortunately James Hurt’s Fender Rhodes is introduced, its muddy electric sound taking away any richness of tone. This is evident on several of the other tracks, the music veering into the realm of smooth jazz, uninspiring and blandly predictable, Rue Lepic more like a soundtrack from a departure lounge or department store than a street in Montmartre.

Bel Air Bop is an exception, stretching the players more, thanks to the busy drumming of Willie Jones lll and a livelier contribution from Hurt’s acoustic piano, which is also used on The Nearness Of You. Hurt’s accompaniment and embellishments, some solid bass work from Gerald Cannon and Jones’ brushwork all sensitively support Alt’s extended solo, a polished and stylish demonstration of her undoubted ability and virtuosity.

But we’re back to 1970s fusion on Classy Cats and Royalty For Real, which despite Cannon’s bass line, simply sounds dated with its tinkling keys and bubbling backcloth. Disappointing.

Roy Allan; Blue Notes And Fairy Tales; Rue Lepic; Bel Air Bop; Classy Cats; The Nearness Of You; Royalty For Real. (42.35)
Alt (as, ts, f); James Hurt (Fender Rhodes, p); Gerald Cannon (b); Willie Jones lll (d); Robert Glass (pc). NY, February 2022.
Venus Tunes ALT033