I first met Jaleel Shaw in the 90s when he was still a high school kid. He was an up-and-coming saxophonist, and came to the Antonio Hart show I was playing in. A lot of time passed, and then we were classmates in the graduate program at the Manhattan School of Music. Along with Miguel Zenón and Will Vincent, he was one of three alto saxophonists jockeying for position. I always felt he was the first.
Jaleel Shaw is one of those rare alto saxophonists whose sound carries the same weight as a tenor. It’s dark, muscular, and sinewy. He has all the accoutrements of modern styling—the math, the controlled dissonance, the fluid lyricism—yet his playing nods to Benny Carter, one of the pioneers on the alto, far before Charlie Parker. So his musical expression spans almost the entire history of jazz.
It’s hard not to be excited when you hear his rhythmic concept as well. Some of that comes from his many years as saxophonist for the legendary drummer and senior jazz statesman, Roy Haynes. That’s probably the most important jazz gig anyone can have in this day and age!
Jaleel Shaw has the whole package: a great sound, a cutting-edge style with deep roots, and innovative compositions. People are taking notice. In 2014 he won the Downbeat Rising Star Alto Saxophonist, and his recordings are getting rave reviews from critics and listeners alike. Check out his 2013 recording, The Soundtrack of Things to Come, and you’ll see what I mean. He’s beginning to rival Kenny Garrett…