Connie Han, Inanna Review
by Jeff Becker
Connie Han is a jazz pianist and composer with the unique ability to balance technical brilliance and melodic clarity. She is now returning with a new album called Inanna. Han’s latest album explores the ancient Sumerian culture by channeling Inanna — the ancient Sumerian goddess of love, beauty, and war through a set of original compositions and arrangements. Inanna is her third release for Mack Avenue Records and features an ensemble of Katisse Buckingham (alto flute and piccolo), John Patitucci (bass), Rich Perry (tenor saxophonist), and drummer Bill Wysaske.
Opening with “Prima Materia,” Han shows her influences by Chick Corea and McCoy Tyner. The melody displays a maturity of flow as Buckingham’s flute leads the way. However, the use of close voicings that buzz with tension dispersed throughout the melody brings in a modern jazz color and sound. Han’s solo is over a groove feel by Patitucci and Wysadke as the two lock and provide a big pad for Han to twist his lines. As I mentioned in the introduction, Han’s ability to balance technical playing with lyrical motifs is at the heart of her impressive musical language. Her use of chromaticism to elevate chords is technically flawless. Lyrical melodies are built through rhythmic motifs and pleasant pentatonic figures. She also shapes her lines with satisfying cadences.
“Morning Star” shows Han’s ability to expand the traditional jazz repertoire by extending its harmonic possibilities with this arrangement. The straight-ahead swing is present throughout the solos. For Perry’s saxophone solo, the trio of Patitucci, Wysaske, and Han keeps a swinging pocket while he explores swing rhythms and melodies against it. Han’s solo is expressed as her single notes cover the range of the piano effortlessly. She also uses well-placed chordal moments to push the energy and reference the chordal structures.
Inanna is a successful adventure for Han and shows her ability to combine technique and melody, which is the cornerstone of its success. In addition, the ensemble has terrific chemistry, and each member is gifted with an elegant swing and groove.