Empowered, the new album from trombone player-extraordinaire Melissa Gardiner is a powerful ride of jazz, funk and dreamy atmospheric tracks that captures the listener from start to finish. Gardiner has been on the circuits playing with legendary acts like Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, and Vulfpeck.
On this record she reaches above the male dominated world of jazz with support from fellow musicians Ingrid Jensen and Tia Fuller. The timing of this inspirational record that dropped on June 21, is a statement against women being a placeholder, rather than featured musicians. On the track “Smile,” which features a brief conversation about entertainers being told they need to ‘appear happy’ on stage and, “Mask,” about women feeling like they must hide their emotions, it is clear that these recordings are not only empowering musicians, but all women. A beautiful sentiment set with incredible harmonies, amazingly-fun and catchy back beats, layered with the strong horn lines are only expected from a Juilliard graduate.
Another strong tune from Empowered is “Slowly.” Gardiner says, “It’s about feeling invisible, where people are looking at you, but not really seeing you – They’re only seeing your physical body.” With the message of abuse, sexism and trying to breakthrough into an incredible challenging profession, “Slowly” is a wonderful sight on the idea of taking steps forward and finding your way by pressing on. With lovely falsetto vocals and a soaring trumpet leading the way, this is another winner on an outstanding record.
Engineer and producer, Jeremy Johnston, has worked with Gardiner over the years on various records. He said: “This is such an exciting project. She came to me with her story and I immediately said yes, I want to help you tell it. We had phenomenal musicians and it tuned out to be fun, and I think she made a great one!” Assistant engineer, Alex Lavon, and Johnston recorded in Syracuse at multiple locations, brought in Weedie Braimah on percussion who tracked from New Orleans, and traveled to NYC to work with Ingrid Jensen and Tia Fuller. Naomi Clark added to the post-production of Empowered, with a keen eye on the final touches.
With Gardiner’s career over many years of taking these steps forward, it is inspiring to see a talent like this rising above and truly shine with her own voice and powerful message. Empowered is a must-listen. The production is next level, as is the artistry.
Key Tracks: Slowly, Brass Ceiling, Mask.