Taking a page out of Deborah Henson Conant’s playbook, Brandee Younger blazes her own trail, playing an instrument seldom heard in jazz circles: the harp. With fresh takes on a few older songs and some original music, the Brandee Younger 4tet presents Live at the Breeding Ground (2014).
With Younger are Dezron Douglas, bass and E.J. Strickland, drums. The quartet is completed on some tracks by tenor saxophonist Chelsea Beratz and on others by soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard.
A shuffle beat is part of the backdrop for “Wax and Wane.” Harp and tenor sax complement each other well on the melody. Behind the leads, Douglas and Strickland get plenty of action. Younger takes point for a while then yields to Baratz. The entire ensemble plays with passion and energy – enough so that it’s difficult to focus on one without neglecting the others. Even during the solos, the other musicians remain firmly engaged.
“Essence of Ruby,” one of four Younger originals, has a funky groove, highlighted by the bass line. As with the other tracks, harp and tenor make a fine pair during the melody. Strickland punctuates key phrases with timely splash and crash cymbals. Douglas and Younger engage in some peripheral action during Baratz’s solo. The tenor’s rich sound is captivating.
The album was recorded at the Breeding Ground recording studio in Brooklyn, New York.
Younger has worked with Grammy-winning hip-hop artist as well as jazz luminaries. She received undergraduate degrees in Harp Performance and Music Business at the Hartt School of Music in West Hartford, Connecticut. Younger worked with Ravi Coltrane in a series of concerts honoring the music of the late pianist, organist and harpist, Alice Coltrane. She also studied the work of harpist Dorothy Ashby, who composed “Wax and Wane.” As a classical musician, Younger was featured soloist with the Harlem Chamber Players and was a selected artist for the Impulse Artist Series. She has also performed with an array of symphony ensembles. Her jazz associations include Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Wycliffe Gordon, Charlie Haden, Kenny Garrett and many others