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Sharel Cassity & Elektra: Evolve (Relsha)

Review of genre-crossing album by band led by alto saxophonist

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Cover of Sharel Cassity & Elektra album Evolve
Cover of Sharel Cassity & Elektra album Evolve

With its R&B and funk grooves and rock and hip-hop energy, Evolve seems to wear its title as an imperative. Certainly it’s a long stride from alto saxophonist Sharel Cassity’s prior three records of straight-ahead swing. Yet it works; in fact, it triumphs.

Credit goes to Cassity’s supreme confidence in her vision. The opening title track immediately evidences her progression, perfectly at home in in its sumptuous rhythmic swagger, bold electronic timbres (both Miki Hayama’s synths and Cassity’s own processed solo) and unusual harmonies. The same is true on “The Here, the Now” and “Outlier.” She also proves an able lyricist: “Wishing Star” is no poetic masterpiece, but it amplifies the sweetness and hope of the pretty tune behind it, Christie Dashiell’s light-tough vocal delivery running parallel to the warmth and delicacy of Cassity’s alto solo.

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