Flutist-Vocalist Alex Hamburger’s Methodical and Imaginative Sophomore Statement What If? Is due out June 29, 2023 via Unit Records

Washington DC-based flutist, vocalist and composer Alex Hamburger returns on her pictorial sophomore statement What If? due out June 29, 2023 via Unit Records. The release of What If? follows Hamburger’s conceptual debut And She Spoke (2021), an homage to the ferocity of trailblazing female creatives stretching from Maya Angelou to Terri Lyne Carrington to Hamburger’s own activist-poet grandmother. The highly-orchestrated, textural paths exhibited on And She Spoke became a sketch of Hamburger’s sensitivity to human experience and propensity for transforming feeling into sound. What If? continues this deed in the sublime and empirical fashion that its title suggests — across nine original compositions, Hamburger reminds us that such hypothetical questions entertain possibility and ignite our imaginations.

She enlists her routine roster of collaborators for the operation, including album producer José Luiz Martins, who is also heard here on keys, synths and piano, Tyrone Allen II on electric, acoustic and synth bass, Chase Elodia on drums and Patrick Graney on percussion. Special guest Andrew Bailie joins the track “Gone Too Soon (For Lowell and Aaron)” on guitar and bass. Like her debut, Hamburger called mixing engineer Patrik Zosso for the bright sonic developments we now know as her signature as well as recording engineer Mark Reiter. In 2021, Hamburger was named a recipient of the Chamber Music America Performance Plus Grant, through which she was able to collaborate with powerhouse trumpeter Ingrid Jensen on the production of What If? “Both Ingrid and the whole band’s insight really helped shape the music that I had written into these fully formed pieces they became,” the bandleader adds.

For Hamburger, composing means creating a visceral narrative and scene. As a result, the output of What If? is immense and multi-hued, combining electric sounds, synths and pedals with percussion and acoustic instruments. At times, moments are abstract, while other settings find comfort in more traditional songform moments with lyrics. Album opener “Ladybug” creates a sensible entryway for this kind of genre-bending, methodical tendency. Trading her words for winds graciously, Hamburger balances both instrumental roles without compensation, all while such intermittent sounds complement the track’s themes of dissociation.

Leaning deeper into the abstract, both pieces of “Molinos de Viento” source inspiration from Hamburger’s studies of Dadaist poetry. Honing in on the notion that art is made from randomization, “Molinos de Viento: Meditation on the Wind”, by virtue of track-producer Tyrone Allen II, is characterized by instrumental fragmentation and the especially-ridged textures of Patrick Graney’s percussion. In 2018, Hamburger wrote these sporadic sounds by a name-from-hat drawing method while a part of the prestigious Focusyear band in Basel, Switzerland. The tracks’ title is sourced from a hallucinatory scene in the Don Quixote epic, when Sancho mistakes windmills in the distance for a group of threatening giants. Hamburger connected a thread once more, morphing Sancho’s delusions into grounds for the fantastical. “Things aren’t always what they seem or appear to be,” she notes. 

“Every song has a different process, a different starting point, be it a melody, a groove, another song or just a few words or chords,” Hamburger states. Tracks like “Surface Unknown” and “Plastic Stars” are soaked in ambient, trance-inducing and fusion atmospheres, the foremost unfolding into lush rhythmic stylings and resolving itself through transcendent harmonies brought forth by Hamburger’s flute and José Luiz Martins’ synths.

While at times her music grapples with notions of randomness and abstract principles, other moments such as “November 3rd” evoke concrete truths and memories. Written amid the infamous Biden-Trump Presidential election in November 2020, the composition is a device of her devout studying of Wayne Shorter’s catalog at the time and taking long walks in the woods to reflect. “November 3rd” portrays an effort to reach toward sanity, and it’s another moment where Hamburger’s style—here more straigthahead than the rest—matches the story behind it.

“​​The main concept of What If? is perception,” Hamburger shared in a statement. “The idea of challenging our perception of reality and how it relates to others and can change. It’s about exploring life in transition and questioning the boundaries of our human experience in today’s society.” Keenly, Hamburger closes What If? with “Gone Too Soon (For Lowell and Aaron), a poignant, folk-flushed tribute to her two late friends. Through ethereal multi-tracking, she sings from Lowell’s point of view, relaying a message to Aaron and creating a symbol of eternal connection. This notion feels broadly understood in the context of loss and, too, an essential final impression of What If?, a record imbued with sensations, questions and multiple answers. 

More about Alex Hamburger

Growing up in the Washington, DC area as the daughter of two accomplished artists, a drummer and a dancer, Alex’s love for music started very early. After some time away, a few years in New York and one in Switzerland, Alex has now returned to DC and with a sense of urgency and ready to make some noise. Her debut album “And She Spoke” (released in November 2021) brings together a collection of music inspired by the diverse and ever changing concept of the female voice, featuring original compositions heavily inspired by poetry written through the female voice and personalized arrangements of female-written compositions. Featuring world renown bassist Doug Weiss along with producer/pianist José Luiz Martins and drummer Chase Elodia, “And She Spoke” is “An album whose spontaneity and subtle sophistication reveal new treasures with each listening” (Patrick Dallongeville, Paris- Move). The album’s CD release tour in 6 different cities in the US was funded by the Jazz Road touring grant, a national initiative of South Arts, which is funded by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with additional support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  

This album was recorded in Basel, Switzerland after Alex lived a year in Basel in 2018 after being selected to be in the prestigious Focusyear band at the JazzCampus where she lived, studied and played for a year alongside masters such as Ambrose Akinmusire, Seamus Blake, Billy Childs, Guillermo Kien, Dave Liebmann, Jorge Rossy, Norma Winston and more. The band also recorded and released an album of original music “Open Paths” as well as toured around Europe.    

Currently, Alex is working on a new album recorded spring 2022 with help from Chamber Music America’s 2021 Performance Plus Grant in which Alex’s quartet (now with the young star and another DMV native Tyrone Allen II on bass) got to work with Ingrid Jensen to prepare and with additional funding from the Pathways to Jazz Grant, a donor advised fund of the Boulder County Arts Alliance. This new album “What If?” features José Luiz Martins and Chase Elodia again as well as Tyrone Allen II on bass and Patrick Graney on Percussion. It will be released on Unit Records on June 29th 2023. 

In January 2022, Alex’s quartet traveled to South America to play in Mercedes, Uruguay as a part of the annual Jazz a la Calle Festival and in São Paulo, Brazil at Jazz B.   

While Alex is starting to make a splash abroad, she is also making headway in the DC area music community, a community she grew up in and she holds so near and dear, by being a 2022 Strathmore Artist in Residence and a 2022 Wammie nominee.


  1. Ladybug 
  2. Lion’s Den
  3. Surface Unknown
  4. Molinos de Viento: Meditation on the Wind 
  5. Molinos de Viento: The Journey 
  6. November 3rd
  7. Plastic Stars (Intro)
  8. Plastic Stars 
  9. Gone Too Soon (For Lowell and Aaron)

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