As the title makes vividly clear, Connie Han’s career may be in the early stages of what promises to be a vertiginous climb, but the 23-year-old pianist and composer is no wide-eyed aspirant, timidly searching for her place in the crowded jazz landscape. One listen to Iron Starlet is ample evidence that she’s every bit an armor-clad talent as the name implies. Her powerful vision takes in the full evolution of her forebearers, from iconic innovators like McCoy Tyner and Hank Jones through the Young Lion revolution spearheaded by the Marsalis Brothers, Kenny Kirkland and Jeff “Tain” Watts, among others.
The toughness at the core of Iron Starlet is rooted in its rhythmic drive, anchored by the trio of Han, bassist Ivan Taylor and drummer/producer Bill Wysaske. They’re joined by the stellar frontline of saxophonist Walter Smith III (returning from Crime Zone) and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, an ideal pairing to realize the compelling blend of sophistication and grit that Han imbues into every piece.