As the year comes to a close, Jazz keeps on going. In November, alto saxophonist and composure Alison Shearer release her first single (“Celestial”) from her 2022 debut album, View From Above. The next singles come out January 26-27 and, finally, the full release launches on the 12th of February. But I’m not a patient person. And when I heard “Celestial,” I had to hear more!
Joined by bassist Marty Kenny, drummer Horace Phillips, and Kevin Bernstein on piano and synthesizers, this group makes a surprisingly splash into the jazz gene pool. It’s fresh, it’s funky, it’s stylish. Shearer uses her sax to lead the group, while a steady and delicious beat keeps tempo. “Toni’s Tune” (which is track 5 and “Toni” as in author Toni Morrison) has an R&B vibe rhythm-wise and a sexy saxophone sauntering on top. There is a spoken-word interlude that is very in vogue at the moment, but Shearer keeps it from being some gimmick merely recycled from other artists. There is life, there is spirit, there is voice.
View From Above has a big sound and is filled with affection and devotion. One of the reasons this album feels so expansive is for its guest musicians: Wayne Tucker on trumpet; Miranda Joan, Johnathan Hoard, Hattie Simon, and others on vocals; and Susan Mandel on cello. These additional troops help bolster the album and make it easier for it to play with sound and scope. Furthermore, Alison Shearer’s father, having died from cancer in 2019, was one of the forces behind her perseverance to finish this project. And so, there is also a warmth and tenderness—apparent in tracks like “Big Kids”—that also intermingles with the joyous melodies.
This new year will be filled, no doubt, with brilliant new albums. Alison Shearer’s View From Above is certainly among them. The breadth and heart of and in each track are impressive and substantial. The whole flows together wonderfully, while the individual songs stand alone, memorable. “Purple Flowers” is one such memorable track and is a bit slower, having more sway than the previous ones. The vocals by Hattie Simon are dreamy and add a needed texture that completes the lazy-day tone. I can only be amazed by the resilience of artists during these trying times. As society feels the weight of injustice and economic inequality and viral diseases, it is also uplifted by the love of music and of being together. The view of earth from above is still beautiful, and I know it will only get more magical in the days, months, years to come.