Emerging Artist Series (EAS): Melissa Aldana and Crash Trio

On March 28th at 8:00 PM, the Vermont Jazz Center will present a concert with the winner of the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, Melissa Aldana. She will be performing with her Crash Trio, whose members also include Pablo Menares, bass and Francisco Mela, drums.

Melissa Aldana is the third generation in her family to follow the saxophone as her calling. Her father, Marcos Aldana, now considered one of the most important musicians in Chile, was her first teacher. She still performs on the Selmer Mark VI saxophone she received as a treasured gift from her grandfather, Enrique Aldana, who was her father's teacher. Marcos Aldana's teaching method was based on transcription: learn the sound quality and improvised solos of those you wish to emulate. Melissa began her studies on the alto saxophone at the age of six. Melissa stated: "My dad would choose a song that he really liked, so the first person I learned from was Charlie Parker. We would take one phrase, and listen. Then, I would play it really slow, over and over, hundreds of times, until it sounded exactly like him. I think it's one of the best ways to teach a little kid because I learned everything by listening to the masters." Saxophonist (and Monk Competition judge) Jane Ira Bloom stated: "The thing that was apparent to us was that Melissa was a young artist, who, in addition to having embraced a great deal of tradition, has made important steps in developing her own personal sonic vocabulary. We all sensed that from her original music and in her interpretations of traditional material." NPR's Alex Rodriguez states "When I first heard Aldana play, her virtuosity was impressive, but what really blew me away was the maturity of her sound. It manifests through clean, nuanced phrasing reminiscent of her early idol, Sonny Rollins."

Sponsored by Julian Gerstin and Carlene Raper

One of Aldana's remarkable traits is her ability to control the finest gradations of sound on her horn: pitch, timbre, inflection. She uses her mastery of a million timbres to great effect - sometimes evoking sounds that are dark and breathy, other times forceful and sinewy, thus enabling her to sound both "old school" and modern, sometimes even within the context of a single song. This flexibility and control is so central to Aldana's musical essence that it illuminates her less-then-common choice to record and perform primarily with the stripped-down accompaniment of bass and drums; it would be excessive to have her intentional tones mitigated by the chords of a piano or guitar.

At the age of 16, Melissa was already headlining jazz clubs in her native city of Santiago. When she learned that Panamanian pianist Danilo Pérez was coming to Chile as part of the Wayne Shorter Quartet, she sought him out during the sound check for the festival. Perhaps this was facilitated by the fact that Pérez' wife had studied with Aldana's father. After hearing her play, Danilo invited Aldana to perform at the Panamanian Jazz Festival and then helped arrange auditions for her at the Berklee College of Music where she was awarded a full, "Presidential Scholarship." In Boston she studied with (among others) Joe Lovano, Billy Pierce, Frank Tiberi and Ralph Peterson.

Upon graduation, Melissa moved to New York where she networked the rich jazz club scene and studied with saxophone legend, George Coleman. She recorded two albums for Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label - Freefall (2010) and Second Cycle (2012) and played along with Osby for a weeklong residency at the Village Vangaurd. Since then, she has performed in such prestigious venues as the Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Small's & Jazz Gallery, as well as been invited to perform with her band at such prestigious festivals as Monterey Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz in Italy, Barcelona Jazz Festival in Spain & Providencia Jazz Festival in her native Chile. She's also shared the stage with some of the greatest contemporary jazz artists of our time.

In 2013, Melissa entered the Thelonious Monk competition which was judged by saxophonists Wayne Shorter, Jimmy Heath, Bobby Watson, Branford Marsalis and Jane Ira Bloom. In the final round, she performed the standard, I Thought About You, showcasing her dark tone, motivic development and creative ornamentation; she also presented a compelling original composition called Free Fall. Amidst extremely challenging competition, Aldana earned first prize. She is the first female instrumentalist to take first prize since the competition started in 1987. Her reaction to this milestone was "I understand that being from Chile, being young and being a woman makes me standout, but what I really want people to see is that jazz and music transcends gender and age. The most important thing is the quality of the music and what you feel when you hear it." Along with substantial prize money, Aldana received a record deal with the Concord Music Group which led to a critically acclaimed album with Crash Trio.

During the last two years, Melissa has been playing and performing with bassist Pablo Menares (also from the Chilean jazz scene), and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela, together they are the Crash Trio. Melissa has finally found her band: "This is the first time I have met people who have the time to dedicate to writing, talking about, and working on compositions."

Pablo Menares is one of the most important bass players in Chile. He has performed and/or recorded with many of the leading jazz musicians in Chile and appeared at major jazz festivals throughout South America. Since moving to New York City in 2009 he has earned respect in both Jazz and Latin music. He can be found in New York at such venues as Lincoln Center, Jazz Gallery, Smoke, Smalls Jazz Club, Fat Cat, 55 Bar and has performed at Carnegie Hall. Menares has performed with such jazz luminaries as Sam Yahel, Arturo O'Farrill, Randy Brecker, Aaron Goldberg, Greg Hutchinson, Claudia Acuña, among others, and has toured throughout North America.

Drummer Francisco Mela is a favorite among jazz's best performers including Joe Lovano, Kenny Barron and McCoy Tyner. Born in 1968 in Bayamo, Cuba, Mela moved to Boston in 2000 to attend Berklee College of Music. Since then he has become and an integral part of Joe Lovano's quartet, McCoy Tyner's trio and expanded his vision as a band leader. Mela has released three albums, all have received positive critical acclaim. His latest project, Cuban Safari, is an amalgamation of his favorite bands that inspired him to become a drummer.

The Melissa Aldana Trio will perform at the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro, Vermont on Saturday, March 28th. They will be performing jazz standards and original compositions that will open your mind to the possibilities of music. This concert is made possible due to the generous financial of Julian Gerstin and Carlene Raper. The VJC is grateful for ongoing support from the Vermont Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.  Hospitality for our artists is provided by the Hampton Inn of Brattleboro. VJC publicity is underwritten by the Brattleboro Reformer, WVPR, WVEW and WFCR.

Tickets for the Melissa Aldana Trio at the VJC, March 28th are $20+ general admission, $15 for students with I.D. (contact VJC about educational discounts); available at In the Moment in Brattleboro, or online at www.ntjazz.org. Tickets can also be reserved by calling the Vermont Jazz Center ticket line, 802-254-9088, ext. 1.

Saturday, March 28th
8:00 PM
Vermont Jazz Center
Sliding Scale ticket fee: $20.00 - $40.00
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In the Moment, 143 Main St, Brattleboro, VT
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