Thursday 15 February 2024

'Royalty For Real' by Susanne Alt

It would probably be fair for a case to be made citing jazz as the most intimidating genre of music for the uninitiated to delve into.  It's lengthy compositions with artists often relishing the freedom of improvisation and further lacking the reprieve of a vocal, can certainly prove too daunting a prospect to undertake.  But for the expansive, diverse and rich genre that jazz is, it can all come down to having the right access point.  For me, in my early twenties at the time, my entry point was the music of US trumpeter, Roy Hargrove.  More specifically, through one of his many side-projects, The RH Factor.

Hargrove's merging of jazz-funk stylings with those of the neo-soul and hip-hop luminaries he was consistently collaborating with in the early-2000s - like D'Angelo, Erykah Badu and Common - proved for me an exciting bridge from a world I was very comfortable in and that I knew a lot about to a brand new one that I would ultimately go on to cherish just as much.

Roy Hargrove's incredible ability to create something magical - like with The RH Factor but also through his Latin, trio and big band projects - proved to be a vital part of his musical make-up and one of the things that would ultimately draw Susanne Alt to his music.

For the German-born, Amsterdam-based saxophonist, Alt's talents have been justifiably celebrated for years.  A highly-educated and highly-decorated artist, Alt has seen tremendous successes in her career; As well as having cultivated a catalogue that has positioned her as an inspired jazz creative, Alt's musical passions have also found her nurturing her penchant for electronic music as an artist, DJ and broadcaster.  Alt's breakthrough release, 'Saxify' (2016), could even be said to showcase the same sensibilities and principles as Hargrove's RH Factor, with Alt embracing hip-hop and neo-soul, all over-arched by a strong jazz-funk aesthetic.

Consistently unhindered in her approach, Susanne Alt's journey as an independent artist affords her the gift of creative freedom to explore the musical avenues at her disposal.  Again, perhaps similar creative leaps and risks that became synonymous with Hargrove over the years.  A chance meeting between the two dating as far back as 1994 would ultimately see the pair regularly perform together further solidifying their convergence despite arriving there via very different paths.

'Royalty For Real' is Susanne Alt celebrating the music of Roy Hargrove.  Over the course of the album's seven tracks, Alt navigates a personal and intimate course that pays loving homage through a series of tracks directly inspired by the trumpeter.  There is even a cover of the Hargrove's classic 'Roy Allan' - originally housed on his 1995 album 'Family'.  Another 'Family' track makes an appearance in the form of 'The Nearness of You' - the Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington-penned number that Hargrove also had an affection for.

Alt's vision is brilliantly executed with the assistance of long-time Hargrove collaborators, Gerald Cannon on bass and drummer Willie Jones III.  It's already an inspired assembly but with the talents of pianist James Hurt and percussionist Robert Glass rounding out the quintet, Susanne Alt's return to jazz becomes an even more compelling listen.  The music is beautifully composed and wonderfully performed boasting some sensational highlights like the joyous nature of 'Blue Notes & Fairy Tales', the charm of the album's title track or the elegance of 'The Nearness of You'.

'Royalty For Real' delivers as a sensational release; one that does justice to its subject and one that further presents Susanne Alt as a boundlessly creative and indelible talent.  In time to come, it just seems to be inevitable that listeners will eventually cite Susanne Alt's own musical endeavours as their own entry points into the at-one-time intimidating genre that now sees them as devoted jazz fans. 

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