Emma Rawicz: Chroma review | John Fordham’s Jazz album of the month

After the success of her teenage breakthrough Incantation, the saxophonist’s new album continues her warp-speed evolution

Emma Rawicz was 19 when she made her self-produced breakout album Incantation; just two years later, she is still a final-year conservatoire student in London, albeit one releasing on Germany’s star-packed and creatively open ACT label. The formidable jazz-horns virtuoso made her name by merging the smoky soulfulness of old-school sax troubadours into the rugged drive of post-bop tenorists from Joe Henderson to Chris Potter and Donny McCaslin. That would be impressive enough, but her new album confirms how inventively risk-embracing a bandleader Rawicz is becoming. On Chroma, she lets classy playing partners stretch out within her expanding compositional world of vocalised Latin-dance hooks, global-jazz rhythmic figures, and edgy, horn-led contemporary instrumentals.

Each of the nine original tracks is named after colours (Rawicz has synaesthesia). Opener Phlox prefaces a high-energy horns-and-guitar hook with drummer Asaf Sirkis’s percussion-mimicking vocals (much like those of Zakir Hussain) before Rawicz’s spiralling tenor solo erupts. Three short anchoring interludes (Xanadu 1-3) share the same spacey six-note motif recast in contrasting moods, while the vocally vivacious Rangwali quickly mixes airy voices, multi-reeds counterpoint and flying improv conversation from pianist Ivo Neame, bassist Conor Chaplin and drummer Sirkis.

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