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Pianist Connie Han’s third Mack Avenue release is inspired by Sumerian mythology from ancient Mesopotamia and focuses on the tales of Inanna, the goddess of love, beauty and war. With strong contributions from bassist John Patitucci and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry, and appearances by Katisse Buckingham on alto flute and piccolo on the opening and closing selections, the 10 originals by Han and drummer-producer Bill Wysaske (plus two other songs) form a suite that follows the journey of the title deity.
The opener, “Prima Materia,” with Han on electric piano, is somewhat reminiscent of Chick Corea and Return to Forever during the fusion band’s quieter moments. Most of the other selections feature inventive acoustic piano solos, including the energetic “Ereshkigal of the Underworld” — a musical portrait of Inanna’s evil older sister — and the high-powered “Gilgamesh and the Celestial Bull.” Perry’s tenor swings lightly as the lead voice on “Morning Star” (recorded by Hubert Laws in the 1970s) and duets quite effectively with Han on the lyrical ballad “Vesica Piscis.” On “Young Moon,” a heated jazz waltz, the pianist sounds unlike any of her historic predecessors on Fender Rhodes while Patitucci reminds listeners why he has long been considered a giant. Other highlights include “Wind Rose Goddess,” a modal piece that one could imagine McCoy Tyner playing; the complex but hard-swinging “Dumuzi of Uruk,” on which Perry’s unleashes the hottest solo of the set; and an exploration of Chick Corea’s “Desert Air.”
While many listeners will be unfamiliar with the source material behind Secrets of Inanna, it’s no impediment to enjoying the album. Han and Wysaske’s music is a vivid introduction to an epic that’s survived centuries, and lively jazz, to boot. — Scott Yanow