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Melissa Aldana

Melissa Aldana

Grammy-nominated saxophonist and composer Melissa Aldana joins the Blue Note Records family with the release of 12 Stars, her debut album as a leader for the legendary Jazz label. At 33, the Brooklyn-based tenor player from Santiago, Chile has garnered international recognition for her visionary work as a bandleader, as well as her deeply meditative interpretation of language and vocabulary. 

12 Stars grapples with concepts of childrearing, familial forgiveness, acceptance, and self-love. “This is a really important album for me,” says Aldana. “I felt like I had so much to say because of all the experiences I had during 2020. After the personal process, I went through last year, I feel more connected to myself and my own imperfections — and I’ve discovered that it’s the same process with music. Embracing everything I hear, everything I play — even mistakes — is more meaningful than perfection.”

Just before the lockdown, Aldana went through personal struggles with the end of a relationship. Alone in Harlem, she told herself she’d be busy for years, with plenty of distractions from dealing with her complex emotional response. “But then,” she says, “the pandemic hit, and I hit bottom.” She needed to make changes, so she turned inward. “Because of that personal process, I feel even more connected to my music.” Even the way she practiced changed, allowing her to explore new concepts and endure discomfort. 

Throughout her career, Aldana has gravitated toward collaborators who let her sound exist and resonate without restraint. She develops profound connections with bandmates, and the personnel and producer she chose for 12 Stars is no exception. “I love playing with musicians that are strongly rooted in tradition but, at the same time, very open-minded when it comes to music,” she says. The album was produced by the Norwegian guitarist Lage Lund, who also performs as part of a remarkable quintet with Sullivan Fortner on piano and Fender Rhodes, Kush Abadey on drums, and Aldana’s longtime collaborator and confidant Pablo Menares on bass.

A sixth collaborator contributed the album artwork. Aldana asked her close friend, vocalist Cécile McLorin Salvant to share her talents as a visual artist for the release, and many of the album’s themes are manifested in Salvant’s sublime cover illustration. “It felt very natural for me to have her as part of this project,” says Aldana.  

Aldana was born in Santiago, Chile, and grew up in a musical family. Both her father and grandfather were saxophonists, and she took up the instrument at age six under her father Marcos’ tutelage. Aldana began on alto, influenced by artists such as Charlie Parker and Cannonball Adderley, but switched to tenor upon first hearing the music of Sonny Rollins, who would become a hero and mentor. She performed in Santiago jazz clubs in her early teens and was invited by pianist Danilo Pérez to play at the Panama Jazz Festival in 2005.

Aldana moved to the U.S. to attend the Berklee College of Music, and the year after graduating she released her first album Free Fall on Greg Osby’s Inner Circle label in 2010, followed by Second Cycle in 2012. In 2013, at 24, she became the first female instrumentalist and the first South American musician to win the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, in which her father had been a semi-finalist in 1991. After her win, she released her third album Melissa Aldana & Crash Trio (Concord). Aldana is also an in-demand clinician and educator and has recently been appointed to the faculty of the New England Conservatory’s Jazz Studies Department.


     


Label |
Blue Note

Management | Robin Tomchin
RTomchin[a]gmail.com

Press | Blue Note Records | Cem Kurosman
212.786.8634
cem.kurosman[a]umusic.com

Discography | Melissa Aldana on AllMusic.com