Toying with the timeline of her own output, harpist Brandee Younger delivers a collection of music whose completion predates the realization and release of her two previous albums—2014’s Live at The Breeding Ground and 2016’s Wax & Wane. Basically in line with what appeared on those complementary recordings, Soul Awakening still manages to stand out by presenting with a bit more variety.
An eclectic blend of the spiritual and soulful, this date proves stirring from the start. With Ravi Coltrane making a guest appearance and drummer Chris Beck stoking the flames, bassist Dezron Douglas’ “Soulris” makes for a compelling opener. Three Younger originals follow, marking the harpist as both a grounded and sophisticated force. “Linda Lee” finds this hippest of harpists at her glistening best, sharing the spotlight with the conversational coupling of tenor saxophonist Chelsea Baratz and trumpeter Freddie Hendrix; “Love’s Prayer,” with a return appearance from Coltrane, starts as melodious Zen poetry and climaxes with bubbling springs; and “Respected Destroyer,” featuring trumpeter Sean Jones, blends hints of Asiatic allure and solid neo-soul suggestions into a seamless package.
Nodding to her chief influences, Younger opens the second half of the album with a trio take on Dorothy Ashby’s “Games” and closes the curtain with a saxophone-centric journey through Alice Coltrane’s “Blue Nile.” A hypnotically flowing take on “Save the Children” dedicated to saxophonist Jimmy Greene’s daughter—the late Ana Grace Marquez-Greene, a victim of the Sandy Hook tragedy—and the loosely knit title track show yet another facet of Younger’s betwixt-and-between artistry. The reasons for the delayed arrival of this Douglas-produced date aren’t completely clear, but it was certainly worth the six-year wait.