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Swiss-raised, New York-based tenor saxophonist María Grand’s second album is a gem, the product of a nimble working trio that includes bassist Kanoa Mendenhall and drummer Savannah Harris.
The 13 originals manage an artful balance of the cerebral and the visceral, moving gracefully between free rhythms, pulses and pronounced grooves, often within the same piece. “Creation: A Home in Mind” begins as a pensive lament and slides into muscular swing. The compositions and improvisations sometimes blur, evoking a seamlessness of expression that couldn’t be accomplished unless the players were so thoroughly dialed in to each other. The trio is agile and responsive — they make music as one.
Grand possesses formidable technique, inventive phrasing and wealth of ideas. The sound she gets from her saxophone is special — full, rich and liquid, ranging from bold and biting to whispery, almost flute-like. Grand has a knack for building a loose architecture and giving shape to her solos, which adds to their coherence. And her playing has genuine emotional heft, a quality that seems increasingly rare in today’s younger players.
A few of the tunes include brief segments of layered, diaphanous vocals — some with simple lyrics, some wordless, some sung, some spoken. Whereas this could’ve come off as contrived, and detract from the superb playing and trio chemistry, it instead adds an intriguing dimension. The funky “Now, Take, Your, Day,” alternates between that sung phrase and potent tenor statements.
Reciprocity is a sublimely cohesive piece of music, compelling from start to finish.