By Sylvannia Garutch
Saxophonist, composer, and educator María Grand was born in Switzerland, upon her moving to New York in 2011, she quickly became the protégée of legendary musicians such as: Billy Harper, and Antoine Roney, as well as NEA Jazz Master Von Freeman. As a side-woman, she has toured extensively with MacArthur Awardee Steve Coleman and his small ensemble, the Five Elements, in addition to Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance and Steve Coleman and Natal Eclipse. María can be heard on Steve Coleman’s latest and critically acclaimed album, Synovial Joints.
For recognition of her emerging talent, she was awarded one of three of the 2017 Jazz Gallery Commission Residencies, along with Adam O’Farrill and Joel Ross. Residency Commission recipients receive a commissioning fee ranging from $7,500.00, as well as unrestricted access to the Jazz Gallery performance space for an entire season to compose, rehearse, and record during off-hours, culminating in the premiere of their new work later in the season. Grand’s work was premiered in June 2017.
On TetraWind, Grand is joined by: Román Filiú on alto saxophone and flute, David Bryant on keyboards, Rashaan Carter on electric bass and Craig Weinrib on drums. Grand composed four compositions titled after the four compass directions. Her compositional style is lyrical, complex, and enormously creative. Her playing style is full of long elaborate lines that are rich with material and full of surprises.
“East (Land of the Living)” begins the project with a fade in of the band playing over a vamp. Grand joins in with rich aggressive lines, the overall effect might remind one of some of Branford Marsalis’ work. Grand’s inspiration seems to flow from Weinrib’s rhythmic density on the kit. Bryant’s solo is rich melodically and builds motifs to completion. Here the conversation between Bryant and Carter is excellent with Weinrib holding it all together.
“South (Quantum)” is a brilliant composition that is builds over Carter’s active bass line, with a short melody, Grand’s solo builds from the start, her irresistible passages, bursting with passion and raw youthful energy, are consistent, dexterous and display a maturity way beyond her years. The composition seems to have specific landing sports and the band plays together, keeping things cohesive and moving forward through the varied parts of the form.
Throughout the program, Grand displays her ability as a modern jazz and experimental saxophonist, her raw added poetess on some of the tracks, also display a defiant rebel of cause, that delve into sociopolitical subjects of modern times. A worthy entrée to an emerging new voice in jazz saxophone, one I hope to hear more from and about in the coming years.