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With "Reclamation," Harpist Brandee Younger Shares a Glimpse of Her Impulse! Debut

Erin Patrice O'Brien

Late last summer, harpist Brandee Younger appeared on an episode of The Checkout to share a piece of good news: her signing to the venerable Impulse! Records, with an album due sometime in the new year. That major-label debut is now on the visible horizon: Somewhere Different will be released on the label on Aug. 13.

The first single from the album, a melodic jazz-funk excursion titled "Reclamation," is out today in digital form. Composed by Younger and produced by her partner in life as in music, Dezron Douglas, it features Anne Drummond on flute, Chelsea Baratz on tenor saxophone and Allan Mednard on drums, along with Douglas on electric bass.

As I noted in a #NowPlaying post for NPR Music, "Reclamation" feels like a callback to the popular heyday of jazz-funk in the 1970s — and a nod to two of Younger's acknowledged predecessors on the harp, Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane.

Younger is acutely aware of the visibility she has as a Black female harpist in an improvisational idiom. "As a harpist, it's double weird," she said on The Checkout. "I do look forward to growing along in this community, and trying to broaden not just my voice, but the voice of the instrument in a nontraditional situation."

Somewhere Different was recorded at Van Gelder Studio in Englewood Cliffs, N.J. — the same iconic room where Alice Coltrane made A Monastic Trio, and her husband John recorded A Love Supreme. The sessions ran from last November through this February, just as a pandemic lockdown was beginning to yield to new freedoms.

Younger and Douglas were, rather famously, highly productive during the early, unmoored phase of COVID-19 in New York. A weekly livestream from their apartment in Harlem became an acclaimed album, Force Majeure, on International Anthem. (It served as the focus of an episode of Jazz United.)

One track from the album, "Toilet Paper Romance," was also featured in the Jazz Night in America video series Alone Together Duets, which chronicled jazz couples who found ways to create together in the stillness of home quarantine.

Dezron Douglas and Brandee Younger: Alone Together Duets | JAZZ NIGHT IN AMERICA

Somewhere Different heralds a new dawn: its sound carries the uplift of renewal. Along with the musicians mentioned above, it includes contributions from drummer Marcus Gilmore, trumpeter Maurice Brown and bassist Rashaan Carter; its special guests include bassist Ron Carter and singer Tarriona "Tank" Ball.

"This is my way of combining all the worlds I have into one," Younger says in a press statement. "This is me doing my own thing completely."

Somewhere Different will be released on Impulse! Records on Aug. 13; preorder here.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.