M Aldana

For her fifth album, the young Chilean saxophonist Melissa pays tributes to the tortured Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The episodic title track displays a loose energy featuring Aldana’s snaky tenor sax and a good dose of unison playing with vibraphonist Joe Ross. The seemingly selfish exuberance of pianist Sam Harris and bassist Pedro Menares gives an impression of true polyphony. The feeling is underlined on “Acceptance,” where the abstracted blending of voices can sound downright unpracticed — or confusingly unanchored to a particular musical character or intention. But this is intentional, meant to echo Kahlo’s pain and sense of exploration. “Experimenting both harmonically and rhythmically with moments of frantic movement interspersed with order and structure is one of the ways I conjure the messiness, struggles, and heartbreaking contradictions present in these visions of identity and self-worth,” Aldana says in the album notes. “La Madrina” is still adventurous, but with a tinge of the dolorous. Here again, we sense a disconnect between the piano and bass before the leader’s horn somehow glues it all together. The result is a rather unique, gentle pandemonium. Aldana, winner of the 2013 Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz International Saxophone Competition, is a hell of a saxophonist. Her playing is big-toned and athletic, and she has great range on the instrument; sometimes you’d swear she’s playing a soprano. This music is not “well-mannered,” but it is a vital statement and musically both challenging and fascinating.