Saxophonist Sharel Cassity and drummer Colleen Clark to release their self-titled debut album with their new co-led collective, Alliance, out March 15, 2024. The album features Cassity and Clark alongside three generational talents in this all-female ensemble, out this March in celebration of Women’s History Month.
Sharel Cassity and Colleen Clark present Alliance, their debut record together on March 15, 2024 via Shifting Paradigms Records, just in time for Women’s History Month. Cassity and Clark forge a sound that is deeply invested in the history and future of the music by bringing together multiple generations of jazz musicians, including pianist Hannah Mayer, bassist Carmani Edwards, and special guest trumpeter Kellin Hanas. With liner notes from multiple GRAMMY winner and award winning educator, Michael Dease, Alliance can be found on the Shifting Paradigm Records label.
Having shared the stage with luminary jazz musicians from Jimmy Heath to Roy Hargrove and Aretha Franklin, Sharel Cassity brings experience and vision to the ensemble. Cassity’s work has earned her multiple years in Downbeat Magazine’s prestigious “Rising Star Alto Saxophone” category as well as cover feature in the magazine. Colleen Clark’s performance career is reminiscent of a versatile musician and includes sitting in as a guest drummer with the 8G Band for a week on Late Night with Seth Meyers to performances with Michael Dease, Branford Marsalis and Rodney Whitaker. As the first woman and drummer to earn a doctoral degree from the prestigious University of North Texas, she is a trailblazer as an advocate for women and girls to play jazz, as is notable through the founding of the University of South Carolina’s Jazz Girls Day. The combination of these two artists is a perfect mixture of experience, vision and leadership. As Michael Dease mentions in the liner notes, “The aforementioned composers are revered for their dedication to artistic leadership, and their inclusion cements this album’s concept of gathering strength directly from the source, the wellspring of innovation known as the Jazz Community.”
The album consists of nine tunes and arrangements, some by band members Clark, Edwards and Meyer, and hand chosen tunes written by some of Cassity’s mentors and other heavyweights in the jazz canon. The record twists and turns through reflective and intimate tunes, groovy interpretations, inspirations of life in the south-eastern U.S. and burning swing. Clark says, “Alliance is a new group that celebrates the jazz community and the mentorship that is deeply laden in jazz culture.”
Alliance opens with the Mulgrew Miller composition “Wingspan,” a burning swinger that highlights the band’s facility with navigating this territory. Clark, Cassity and Meyer shine while improvising. Including Mary Lou Williams’s “Syl-O-gism” on the record was a no-brainer, as not only a nod to the late great composer and pianist but also to showcase the interpretation put forth by this tightly-knit group.
“Linger” was brought to the table from the pen of Edwards. This slower, mysterious track allows the band to experiment with different sonic shapes and overall beauty that comes from the opportunity to play a spacey, beautiful tune. “Gemini” is another nod to one of Cassity’s mentors, Jimmy Heath. Cassity names James Moody as one of her favorite flutists and that influence comes through on this track.
In salute to the great Herbie Hancock, Edwards offers up this particularly hip arrangement of “Maiden Voyage” that allows for some out of time blowing and groove centered playing. Edwards shines on this track with an incredible bass solo. “La Tristeza” is one of Clark’s originals, previously recorded by Clark and Cassity in 2013 on Clark’s debut album. The Branford Marsalis approach to the ballad, of playing it once through, rubato makes for a different but incredibly beautiful version of the original.
The album continues with “Something New,” an offering from pianist Meyer which provides a tricky but exciting journey as the band twists and turns through the harmony. Cassity provides an especially exciting performance on this track whilst Meyer, Edwards and Clark provide the swinging foundation necessary. “Caro-li-na” is a nod not only to NOLA style jazz but Clark’s experiences in her new home of South Carolina. Clark gets to stretch a little on this track, paying tribute to some of her favorite New Orleans born drummers like Zutty Singleton and Baby Dodds.
Alliance closes with “There But for the Grace of…” by Harold Mabern and features Meyer plus special guest Kellin Hanas on trumpet. Another up-tempo swinger, the band shows once again that it excels in this terrain.
Alliance is a record worth listening to as it not only fully embraces jazz culture and the jazz community, but also the mentorship necessary to continue moving the music forward. The balance between originals and important compositions in the jazz tradition is reflective of the band and its makeup. The music speaks for itself.
1. Wingspan (3:35)
2. Syl-O-gism (4:33)
3. Linger (4:49)
4. Gemini (4:36)
5. Maiden Voyage (8:32)
6. La Tristeza (3:18)
7. Something New (4:26)
8. Caro-li-na (4:52)
9. There But for the Grace of… (6:21)