Melissa Aldana‘s approach to the tenor saxophone has earned her the respect of some of the leading performers and educators on her instrument. Greg Osby, who signed Melissa to his label, Inner Circle Music, after hearing her play just once, proclaims, “Melissa is actually one of my favorite saxophonists on the planet, period.” George Coleman describes her as “one of New York’s finest young saxophonists,” and George Garzone implores you to “please check her out…NOW.”
Melissa was born in Santiago, Chile, and exposed to music under the tutelage of her father, Marcos Aldana, who helped her hone her skills as a saxophonist and improviser. A meeting with the pianist Danilo Perez in 2006 led to an audition at Berklee College of Music, where Melissa received the Presidential Scholarship. Arriving in Boston with very little money and without the ability to speak English, Melissa persevered, seeking out the guidance of the three aforementioned saxophone masters, Greg Osby, George Coleman, and George Garzone, among several others.
Since moving to New York in 2009, Melissa has performed with Osby, Garzone, and Coleman, as well as Benny Golson, Francisco Mela, and Antonio Sanchez. She has also recorded two albums on Osby’s Inner Circle Music imprint: Free Fall, which was released in 2010, and a new effort, Second Cycle. The New York Times‘ Ben Ratliff writes:
“Second Cycle”…sounds like a moment of synthesis and challenge, when a jazz musician wants to squeeze the music’s history and prove herself on deeper levels. Melissa Aldana is in her mid-20s and already advanced; “Free Fall,” two years ago, showed her basic readiness with the tradition. But on “Second Cycle” she’s in a small group without a piano or any chordal instrument, playing hard over fairly soft dynamics. This suits her…she self-edits and takes her time, getting into the weight and texture of the notes, the pleasure of the sounds…She unspools frenetic phrases and open, flowing ones. Her version of “I’ll Be Seeing You” shows that she’s absorbed the ballad-playing tenor tradition of the 1940s — from Don Byas and Ben Webster — and in other places she seems to link, within a few phrases, the Coltrane of the early ’60s and the Mark Turner of now.