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Alison Shearer: View from Above (Self-released)

A review of the saxophonist/composer's debut album under her own name

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Alison Shearer: View from Above
The cover of View from Above by Alison Shearer

Up-and-coming saxophonist/composer Alison Shearer has planted her jubilant stamp on a diverse set of thrilling New York groups. The influence of hip-hop has been a driving force within her wide-ranging arc, as evidenced by her membership in the multicultural Red Baraat and her co-founding of the rap-centric PitchBlak Brass Band.

Shearer’s debut under her own name, View from Above, occupies a more straightforward realm than those aforementioned groups but is no less of a revelation. What’s especially refreshing about it is that, while its underpinnings are of the cosmic variety, Shearer’s breezy compositions don’t fit under the “spiritual jazz” umbrella that’s all today’s rage. Rather, the set’s 10 pieces are crisp, upbeat, and distinctly accessible, an airy confluence of jazz, R&B, and gospel with honeyed melodies. Conceived following the death of Shearer’s father, celebrated photojournalist John Shearer, View from Above is far from a crestfallen statement. Instead, the saxophonist peers through a hopeful lens and provides uplifting messages, her majestic yet concise alto lines a supreme catalyst that propels each track to exquisite heights.

Taking the reins of an outstanding band that includes Kevin Bernstein (piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizers), Marty Kenney (bass), and Horace Phillips (drums), along with several vocalists, Shearer showcases veteran-level moxie as an arranger. The record’s first three songs (“On Awakening,” “Celestial,” and “Cycles”) are sure to get the body moving, busting out with otherworldly hooks and funky riffs. “Toni’s Tune” should get the foot tapping and then some. But the danceable rhythms are dialed down for the moving album centerpiece, “Big Kids.” On this emotionally wrought gospel-leaning epic, Shearer pays homage to her late father’s role in the civil-rights movement, featuring excerpts of Malcolm X talking about police brutality.

Wielding a skill set beyond her years, Alison Shearer is a force on the rise.

Learn more about View from Above on Amazon & Apple Music!