Saxophonist, flutist and composer Hailey Niswanger has been on the radar of the jazz cognoscenti for years, earning rave reviews for her albums Confeddie, The Keeper and PDX Soul and sharing the stage with the likes of Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, Harvey Mason, Mike Clark, Michael Wolff, Ralph Peterson Jr., and other jazz greats. More recently, the trailblazing woodwind specialist has been brought to the attention of a wider listening audience thanks to appearances on Saturday Night Live with vocalist Demi Lovato and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with the noise-pop duo Sleigh Bells.
Niswanger’s rapid ascent up the jazz ranks has been one of the most exciting stories in jazz. But for Niswanger, this pivotal moment did not come without its challenges. In the midst of profound personal, spiritual and even geographical life changes — earlier this year, she relocated to L.A. after years on the Brooklyn scene — she began a deep inward search. “I finally started being able to see myself for me,” she says. As a person and an artist, she worked toward a place where she could “release into this idea that your life is set for you—that we chose our lives before we got here,” she explains. “You have your own flow that you need to give in to.”
Now, Niswanger is set to release a new album with her ensemble MAE.SUN that translates those newfound realizations into music. With MAE.SUN’s Vol. 2: Into the Flow, she follows the advice given to her by Zen Master Thích Nhât Hanh to embrace the natural, inevitable flow of her artistry, and to not give in to the pressures of society by “getting caught up in fears, anxieties and stigmas that can hold us back.”
The new album is an immersive musical experience that brings listeners into a similar flow-state, conjuring a place of extraordinary calm and profound depth from within a swirl of sounds that fans of ’60s and ’70s jazz fusion will be happy to inhabit. All the while, Niswanger’s voice — both on her horn and through her own contributions on vocals — acts as a guiding force. “I felt like I finally stepped into a new version of myself that was 100-percent authentic and free,” she says. “MAE.SUN really feels like I’m fulfilling my potential and my purpose.”
The album is set for release on November 1. JAZZIZ is proud to premiere the track “Bond,” an affirmative blend of sultry modern R&B and dynamic jazz interplay that features Amber Navran from the Los Angeles-based trio Moonchild. The lineup also includes vibraphonist Nikara Warren, guitarist Andrew Renfroe, keyboardist Axel Laugart, bassist Aaron Liao and drummer David Frazier Jr, with Jake Sherman on additional synths. The band is a portmanteau of Niswanger’s middle name, Mae, and the sun, which she calls “the second hear that connects all life.” You can stream the new track via the player below.
“’Bond’ was written with a friend in mind, someone who at the time, was unsure of their next steps in life, what they wanted to do, where they wanted to go,” says Niswanger.
“I know this is a theme that all humans can relate to at some point in their life, but what I’ve come to find in my spiritual life, is that there is a flow to the universe, and releasing into that flow is a much better way to live than fighting against it. Everything becomes more at ease, and if you pay attention and are in-tune, there are signs everywhere both inside and outside of your body, guiding you. We are all a part of something greater than us, and this song serves as a reminder to release from our individualistic mindset and Into The Flow.”
Niswanger will be appearing with Harvey Mason’s Chameleon at Blue Note Napa in California through October 6, followed by a run of shows at Blue Note Beijing through October 13. For more information, visit the artist’s website.