Harpist Brandee Younger releases her first major label album “Somewhere Different” on the Impulse! label. After “Wax & Wane” (2016), “Soul Awakening” (2019), and her work with Dezron Douglas, “Force Majeure” (2020), this is her fourth release overall. It’s out on vinyl too! And even though the harp is not really your prevalent instrument in jazz, Brandee manages to keep it in focus and on the spot on every track, even though there is formidable drum work by Allan Mednard on the opening track “Reclamation” and also some fierce tenor sax playing courtesy of Chelsea Baratz.
Brandee keeps the harp as the melody keeper in tandem with trumpeter Maurice Brown on “Spirit U Will” before she gets the chance to solo in a sort of mythical and yes, spiritual way. The album features a couple of tracks produced by Tariq Khan coming over with a more edgier, crunchier sound, and the majority produced by Dezron Douglas, echoing his former collaboration with Brandee for more esoteric, soulful, and peaceful vibes. On “Pretend”, Brandee is joined by singer Tarriona “Tank” Ball from Tank & the Bangas. They both come up with a dreamy, floating piece with Tarriona serving up a short rap too.
The aforementioned peaceful, soulier aspect of her album is probably best delivered on the title track, where the harp is the storyteller and never veers too far into trite territory where the instrument is sometimes located; think about the schmaltzy Andreas Vollenweider for example. No, Brandee’s approach is much more based on Alice Coltrane’s oeuvre or even that of Gloria Agostini who used to play for Quincy Jones. And yet, she manages to clearly find her own voice, certainly with the help of her amazing musicians with Allan impressively working the drums on all of the tracks with his imaginative playing.
On “Beautiful Is Black”, another downtempo beauty, we get the chance to hear the prowess of Ron Carter getting into an intimate conversation with the leader. Together with svelte drums, the trio allures with an elegant and enchanting mood piece. There is a certain glamour, a shining radiance coming through the harp here, turning the track into one of the album’s highlights. Ron’s solo is captivating. More thrilling sounds abound with the trio on “Olivia Benson”. Harp, bass (Rashaan Carter) and drums once again form a fascinating trio for the album’s final cut, “Tickled Pink”, another adorable melody pushing the harp further into magical spheres by a player whose musical stance and achievements can only be held in high regard.