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2016-04-26

7:30PM

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"She has been called "an old soul" and I agree. She is already creating her legend and-even after only three albums-she can be called great. She owns the future." - JazzTimes

Melissa Aldana with Pablo Menares & Jochen Rueckert

Melissa Aldana began playing saxophone at the tender age of 6. After watching pupils come in and out of her home in Santiago, Chile to take lessons from her father, Marcos Aldana - a renowned jazz saxophonist himself - the young Melissa would pester him to teach her as well. Her father began teaching her by showing her how to play two notes. From that moment, she was hooked and was finally given her first saxophone, an alto, and her father began teaching her how to play. Marcos Aldana's teaching technique included a great deal of transcription. "When I first started learning, we were using cassettes to transcribe," says Melissa. "My dad would choose a song that he really liked, so the first person I learned from was Charlie Parker. We would take one phrase, and listen. Then, I would play it really slow, over and over, hundreds of times, until it sounded exactly like him. I think it's one of the best ways to teach a little kid because I learned everything by listening to the masters."

On stage, Melissa caught her first big break when Osby invited her to play a weeklong residency at the Village Vangaurd. Since then, she has performed in such prestigious venues as the Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola, Blue Note, Jazz Standard, Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Small's & Jazz Gallery, as well as been invited to perform with her band at such prestigious festivals as Monterey Jazz Festival, Umbria Jazz in Italy, Barcelona Jazz Festival in Spain & Providencia Jazz Festival in her native Chile. She's also shared the stage with some of the greatest contemporary jazz artists of our time such as Christian McBride, Peter Bernstein, Jeff Tain Watts, Kevin Hays among others.

During the last two years, Melissa has been playing and performing with her current band mates, bassist Pablo Menares (who she has known for a long time from the Chilean jazz scene), and drummer Francisco Mela. Known as the Crash Trio, Melissa finally found her band, "This is the first time I have met people who have the time to dedicate to writing, talking about, and working on compositions."

In September 2013, at age 24, Melissa won the Thelonious Monk International Jazz Saxophone Competition, which was judged by Jane Ira Bloom, Branford Marsalis, Jimmy Heath, Wayne Shorter and Bobby Watson. In commenting on Melissa's win to Downbeat magazine, Bloom stated, "The thing that was apparent to us was that Melissa was a young artist, who, in addition to having embraced a great deal of tradition, has made important steps in developing her own personal sonic vocabulary. We all sensed that from her original music and in her interpretations of traditional material."

In addition to winning a $25,000 scholarship with the Monk Institute and a recording contract with Concord Music Group, Melissa was also distinguished with the honor of becoming the first female instrumentalist to ever win the illustrious competition, which she recognizes is important, but would prefer people to see beyond her gender. "I understand that being from Chile, being young and being a woman makes me standout, but what I really want people to see is that jazz and music transcends gender and age. The most important thing is the quality of the music and what you feel when you hear it." Aldana also won the National Arts Award "Altazor" in Chile for "Best Album," and recently received the Lincoln Center Martin E. Segal Award.

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