The Checkout: Saxophonist Melissa Aldana on Her First Grammy Nod, and Her Album 'Visions'

Jan 2, 2020

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards take place on Sunday, Jan. 26 — and Melissa Aldana will be there, as a nominee in the category of Best Improvised Jazz Solo.

Aldana, a tenor saxophonist originally from Santiago, Chile, earned the nod for her performance on “Elsewhere,” from her critically acclaimed album Visions (Motéma).

Credit courtesy of the artist

Visions was inspired by the singular Mexican painter, activist, and mystic Frida Kahlo. On this episode of The Checkout, featuring a conversation from last summer’s Montreal International Jazz Festival, Aldana discusses that inspiration. We’ll hear “Elsewhere” and another piece from the album — “La Madrina,” based on Kahlo’s encounter with a ghost after suffering from a catastrophic bus accident in early adulthood.

The ghost of La Madrina, as Kahlo called it, gave her the choice of death or life: to either let go and peacefully ascend to the heavens, or choose to live and deal with the many painful obstacles ahead in her life. Aldana says this story represents “the choices we make in life, and how we shape our destiny.”

This lesson coincides with Aldana’s own story. She opens up about her father, who inspired her to play the saxophone, but with whom she’s estranged.

Melissa Aldana performs with Kevin Hays on Friday and Saturday at Mezzrow. The Melissa Aldana Quartet performs on Jan. 9 at Jazz Standard, and on Feb. 10 and 11 at Dizzy’s Club.

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