Susanne Alt
Susanne Alt

Salt Peanuts (DK) 02-24

Salt Peanuts


When you hear the surname Alt, it might not be surprising that you become a saxophonist. Susanne Alt is a saxophonist, composer, DJ, and producer based in Amsterdam. She was born in 1978 in Würzburg, Germany, into a musical family. She studied classical saxophone at Meistersinger-Konservatorium Nürnberg (1993-1996) and won the Siemens Prize for young talents in 1996. At the age of 18, she moved to the Netherlands to study saxophone at the conservatories in Hilversum and later Amsterdam (1996-2000). She continued her studies at the Universität der Künste Berlin (2000-2003).

Since 1999, she has had her own quartet, but she was also one of the first musicians to perform live with DJs in Amsterdam's nightlife. In 2004, she made her debut as a producer with the release of "Nocturne" on her own record label, Venus Tunes, followed by several albums. In 2015, she was asked by a booker if she could also be a DJ, and as a joke, she said yes. To her surprise, this answer had consequences, and she just received her first booking as a DJ! This led to an expansion of her career, and her DJ sets (without saxophone) also became in demand. Her experience in dance music inspired the creation of Venus Tunes Live, a live act exclusively for women featuring musicians who were also DJs.

From 2016 onwards, she focused more on dance releases on her label and has since delivered a monthly guest mix on Freak31 radio. In addition to her own projects, she is a sought-after guest and session musician, collaborating with artists such as Fred Wesley, DJ Spinna, Opolopo, Johan S, Hardsoul, DJ Maestro, Wicked Jazz Sounds, and many more. As a saxophonist deeply rooted in jazz, funk, and soul, she embraces the various musical possibilities of a DJ/producer, venturing into electronic music, especially anything soulful, funky, and deep.

So here we meet a saxophonist with many irons in the fire. On her new album, she plays alto and tenor saxophones plus flute, James Hurt plays Fender Rhodes and piano, Gerald Cannon plays bass, and Willie Jones III handles the drums. Additionally, Robert Glass contributes percussion on a couple of tracks. Of the seven songs, five are composed by Alt, while the opening track, "Roy Allan," is written by trumpeter Roy Hargrove, to whom the album is also dedicated. The second-to-last track, "The Nearest Of You," is composed by Hoagy Carmichael and Ned Washington.

Right from the start, we understand that this is jazz music that lies on the outskirts of what we usually spend time on here at salt peanuts*. The fact that one of her previous releases was titled "How To Kiss" doesn't exactly suggest that this is a record for us. However, Alt has chosen to challenge us and send us the release, so we approach it with freshly cleansed ears and an open mind.

The first track, "Roy Allan," is a decent composition, receiving a somewhat funky and pop-oriented treatment here. However, there's something about the production that I can appreciate. With the double bass prominently featured in the sound, and with fine and creative bass playing, we accept the somewhat smooth Fender Rhodes playing, which does its best to push the music into a somewhat "light" landscape.

And this continues through much of the release. I don't know how many remember the Dutch saxophonist Candy Dulfer from the 90s. But if you do and liked what she delivered, Alt will certainly be something for you.

Personally, I find the music too smooth for my taste. However, Alt is a decent saxophonist within the music she performs. Especially, I think the bass playing and the production, with the bass so prominently featured in the sound, work well. And it sounds best in the tracks where Hurt plays piano ("Bel Air Bop" and "The Nearest Of You"). In these songs, I think the band sounds as it should, proving that they can play "proper" jazz at a very respectable level. But in the other tracks, I find the music a bit too "simple," and it leans too much towards pop and slightly lightweight funk for me to fully embrace what is served.

Jan Granlie

Susanne Alt (alto saxophone, tenor saxophone, flute), James Hurt (Fender Rhodes, piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), Willie Jones III (drums), Robert Glass (percussion)

on 18/05/2024


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