Sonya Jason Tigress
This year's most engaging new sax find is Phoenix native Sonya Jason, who bursts onto the contempo scene with some of the West Coast's smartest players and gusto to spare.
Tigress (Discovery) is a perfect title for her debut, as she alternates between the cool sensuality of a cat and the fiery roar of its more ferocious counterpart. She's a well-phrased player on both alto and sopranino, writes tight melodies for both airplay and her own sharp improvisational sense, and as a producer knows how to balance the scales to give Bill Cunliffe, Chester Thompson, Vinnie Colaiuta, Mike Miller, and Jimmy Haslip room to groove.
The collection's brightest secrets are at the end, where the fun-filled "Cartoon Blues" (featuring licks from The Simpsons and Flintstones themes) and multi-moded "Escape To Dreamland" show the two sides of Jason: the whimsical blower and the serious artist. Candy Dulfer better watch her step.