Spiritual daughter of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, Brandee Younger brings the jazz harp back to the heart of the groove.
The harp is not an instrument that is spontaneously associated with jazz. But some musicians – and especially female musicians – have made it their specialty.
This is the case of Brandee Younger, who is performing this Sunday evening, for free, at the Montreal International Jazz Festival.
At 39, this American musician already has seven albums to her credit. Since her recording debut in 2011, she has been seen alongside saxophonists Kenny Garrett and Ravi Coltrane, drummer Jack DeJohnette, but also rapper Common and singers from R
These varied collaborations testify to his own eclecticism. Because Brandee Younger is not a jazz purist. Far from there. His music is rather a kind of fusion between his multiple influences (classical music, pop, funk, soul) and the harp groove tradition, established more than 60 years ago by Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane.
These two names are essential when it comes to the harp in jazz. And Brandee Younger fully lays claim to their influence: “Alice was more witty. Dorothy, more direct. When I first heard them, I thought, this is exactly what I want to do. »
It’s not easy to find your own style when you have such dominant models. Ashby and Coltrane literally invented the gender alphabet. The musician is aware of this. But she also knows that her musical fusion sets her apart from her predecessors. “I developed my own sound,” she says.
She has no intention, moreover, of denying her two models, even if Coltrane and Ashby have for some time become fashionable again, after being rediscovered by new generations of music lovers.
On the contrary.
This reverence continues to this day. On her latest album, Brand New Life (2021), Brandee Younger exclusively covers compositions by Dorothy Ashby (1932-1986). Logic. Because if Alice Coltrane (1937-2007) was responsible for her awakening to the jazz harp – and she continues to pay homage to her on stage – she is perhaps instinctively closer to Dorothy Ashby, because of her accessible mixture of styles.
“I like to erase labels because my music is hybrid,” she explains. When I write or record, I don’t think in terms of genres. It was the same for Dorothy Ashby, who did not hesitate to take up hits of the moment or film scores, ”she says.
Her Montreal concert will thus be devoted to Ms. Ashby, with detours by Ms. Coltrane and her own compositions. Brandee Younger will be in a trio, accompanied by a bassist (Rashaan Carter), a drummer (Allan Mednard) and a set of two microphones to amplify his harp. We are curious to see his improbable instrument on stage, with its cascades of angelic notes delivered in groove mode.
One thing is certain: it can’t be ugly.