High buildings scrape the sky in the New York City. In nearby Connecticut, the blue space overhead enjoys a gentler touch from leafy treetops and rolling meadows. For her debut album JUMP, Julieta Eugenio’s compositions reflect the landscape and spirit of both of these places – and aim to inspire listeners to reach for the stars.
Argentinian tenor saxophonist and composer Julieta Eugenio is joined by bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Jonathan Barber on JUMP. The three friends are frequent performers at clubs in New York City. When the pandemic slammed those venues shut, the trio escaped to Connecticut to keep making music. It marked a big turning point in Eugenio’s life. “In all that darkness, I decided to go for it and record an album,” she said. “Now, I want this music to inspire listeners to go on a journey of sensations – then take a leap of faith and do what makes them feel free, or alive. To express themselves. To jump.”
Open-hearted and funk-dusted
From the very first track, Efes, Eugenio’s cream-and-honey saxophone voice tells the tale of two locations – swooping like a butterfly in a wide-open pasture, then zipping around like a mosquito trapped in a bottle. The title song, Jump, is a laid-back swingy number that bumbles from one sweet flower to the next. La Jungla has a faster tempo with longer, boppier sax phrases and a frenetic drum solo. A ballad, For You, is an open-hearted piece that trusts the listener to fill in the blank spaces.
Racoon Tune is a highlight. Dwonszyk’s bass delivers a hopping, funk-dusted riff. Barber’s drumming is permitted more space to expand and explore. A downward-squirming sax pattern sets the tone early, infused with a smiling spirit of fun and freshness. Eugenio’s vocabulary of trills, encapsulations, fall-offs, flicks, tricks, growls and vibrato is phenomenal on every track. On Racoon Tune, she is in scintillating form. “I’m a big believer in energy,” Eugenio said. “And the energy was there. It was beautiful.”
Standards and stand-outs
The Earl Bostic composition Flamingo is the first of two standards, and provides cast-iron proof of the command of traditional playing that underpins the trio’s avantgarde excursions. The second standard is Crazy He Calls Me, written by Carl Sigman and often associated with Billie Holiday. Eugenio’s gigantic tenor tone is a natural fit for ballads, and this sparse arrangement amplifies her gift beautifully.
Another Bliss stands out for the slight sharpening of the saxophone voice, with a more incisive and concentrated force. The mood grows frenzied, there is less control, the drums kick and thrash, Eugenio accelerates her lines and spends more time in the altissimo range. Jonathan Barber snatches some space and lunges headfirst into a zigzagging solo. The album’s motivational message is loud and clear.
Track 9 is Snowbirds, a fast swing number where drums and sax engage in a vigorous call-and-response. Tres then gives listeners a final chance to bask in Eugenio’s balladry. It’s a sensual, spaced-out, sound-driven and soft-edged piece with a searching and soaring spirit. A perfect choice to round-off the record.
A brave and exciting talent
JUMP is a debut album with big ambitions. It seeks to combine the atmosphere of very different places, as well as blending diverse musical styles and influences – while spreading a profound message of inspiration too. After taking a leap of faith, Eugenio has not landed on Easy Street. This expressive, impressive and less-is-more album introduces a brave and exciting talent to the world.
“That time of reflection gave me a much deeper and closer connection with the music,” Eugenio says. “It was a realisation… I want to do this and I’m going to do this for the rest of my life. I felt very good. But I don’t want to make it too much about me. It’s about inspiring people to go on an inner search. That’s the idea. If you want to do something, go for it. Take the jump. Right?”
The album is available on CD and as a digital download here .
This is an outstanding outing for Julieta. To be an inaugural recording it displays a lot of originality, it casts a bright light on her spirit and energy and demonstrates commitment to the music. I have played two tracks from this album on my show on WORT 89.9 FM in Madison, Wisconsin. It is on my next playlist as well because I can’t get enough of her music.
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