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Brandee Younger's harp takes music 'Somewhere Different'

Brandee Younger
Erin Patrice O'Brien
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Harpist Brandee Younger makes her Impulse! Records debut with Somewhere Different.

The new voice in jazz harp, Brandee Younger breaks down any remaining barriers between classical music and contemporary jazz with her new album, Somewhere Different. Lush soundscapes, soulful ballads, pulsing funk beats and catchy melodies show an emerging artist with a lot to say ... and a fresh way of saying it.

Featuring an outstanding band produced by bassist Dezron Douglas, Somewhere Different includes guest appearances from jazz bass legend Ron Carter and vocalist Tarriona "Tank" Ball of New Orleans funk-rock-hip-hop outfit Tank and the Bangas.

"This is my way of combining all the worlds I have into one,” Younger states, “This is me doing my own thing completely.”

The beautiful, classical-meets-pop melody of the title song "Somewhere Different" is a standout. The repeated musical theme ebbs and flows with evolving beats, in the style of bucolic European movie love themes. The song's elegance is matched by a feeling of familiarity and comfort.

Brandee Younger's new album is Somewhere Different.
Album cover photography by Erin Patrice O'Brien
Jazz harpist and composer Brandee Younger has released her new album, Somewhere Different.

Younger's "Reclamation" begins with a hypnotic plucking of the strings, lifted by snapping hip-hop beats, then topped with a lovely flute and sax melody. Always, Younger's harp is there with decorative flourishes, rhythmic riffs and beautiful soloing. Heads will bob, but the destination of this hip, modern piece is different than just about anything else in the world of instrumental music. (The song's title is a reference to Congresswoman Maxine Waters' attempts to get straight answers in a 2017 hearing that's become near legendary.)

If you think of Somewhere Different as a film score in search of visuals, you might imagine a fantasy land populated by futuristic characters. And yet, this heavenly place is filled with a familiar sense of the comfort one finds among friends and family. Younger's music is different, sometimes to the point of psychedelic, but certainly not off-putting.

The flutist Ann Drummond shines alongside saxophonist Chelsea Baratz on this first single. In a related turn, trumpeter Maurice Brown offers a strong statement on "Spirit You Will," a tribute to jazz harpist and pianist Alice Coltrane. Mostly, though, Younger's harp enjoys the spotlight throughout Somewhere Different.

For those who think the harp is a novelty instrument in jazz, Younger looks to destroy that preconception. As talented a player as she is a composer, Younger should be earning new audiences — and perhaps an award or two — with Somewhere Different.

Animation by Pixel Park

Abe grew up in Western Washington, a 3rd generation Seattle/Tacoma kid. It was as a student at Pacific Lutheran University that Abe landed his first job at KNKX, editing and producing audio for news stories. It was a Christmas Day shift no one else wanted that gave Abe his first on-air experience which led to overnights, then Saturday afternoons, and started hosting Evening Jazz in 1998.
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