Among Giants
Release Date: June 21, 2024
Label: Blue Engine

Blue Engine Records—Jazz at Lincoln Center’s in-house record label—is proud to present the debut album Among Giants from rising star alto saxophonist Sarah Hanahan alongside Marc Cary (piano), Nat Reeves (bass), and Jeff “Tain” Watts (drums).

Among Giants finds Hanahan marshaling a powerhouse rhythm section to make an unforgettable statement that announces her arrival on the global jazz scene. It’s also a passionate declaration of her dedication to pushing the music forward while also honoring the past. “New voices have pushed and pulled and conceptualized where jazz is today, but through it all, bebop has stayed constant and relevant,” Hanahan says. “This is what we call the lineage and the tradition, and it was my inspiration for the record. I want to pay my respect to my mentors and to the greats who have come before me, but I also want to show who I am and the voice I have to contribute to this lineage.”

As a graduate of the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the University of Hartford’s Hartt School of Music, Hanahan venerates alto legend McLean and his acolytes, who provide a prime source inspiration on her debut album. “Abraham Burton, Nat Reeves, Steve Davis, and René McLean not only taught me how to play and the dedication it takes to be a real musician, but they taught me what music really is about. They taught me what music means and the heaviness every note carries. They stressed the importance of culture, spirituality, and knowing the tradition,” she reflects.

Working with Reeves, Watts, and Cary was a natural fit for Hanahan, who describes the rehearsals leading up to the record as “unbelievably fun and easy.” It's easy to understand why: Reeves and Watts have played together for over thirty years, and have revolutionized the bass-drum lockup in the process. And Marc Cary, informed by his many years with Betty Carter and Abbey Lincoln, has developed one of the most dynamic concepts of comping and supporting a soloist. “While the four of us worked together to learn my songs and play standards, each person contributed musical ideas that ended up shaping each track to what you hear on the record. All of them putting their unique individual touches while also listening to each other in depth and playing as one is what truly makes this record special,” she describes.

Among Giants features a carefully curated mix of originals and standards. Among the highlights are “NATO,” a Hanahan original written for Nat Reeves. Encapsulating an energetic fusion of new and old, the song has a contagious energy and what Hanahan refers to as a “beautiful arch in dynamics.” Opening track “Welcome” is another stunner. Originally recorded on John Coltrane’s album Transition, “Welcome” highlights the spiritual side of Hanahan’s playing. “I want this track to take people on a journey, and I think we conveyed just that,” she says.  Lead single “We Bop!” was written during the pandemic and has become a set-list staple on Hanahan’s gigs. “This tune has been played in so many different ways over the past few years, and the way we played it on the album is completely different than any time we’ve played it before,” she comments. A fan-favorite that often closes out her shows, “We Bop!” is an invigorating and celebratory jam that routinely leaves audiences on their feet.

Already hailed by NPR’s “Youngbloods” series as a star in the making, Hanahan has put her name on the map by performing and touring with renowned musicians including Peter Martin, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Joe Farnsworth, Steve Davis, and the Grammy award-winning Mingus Big Band. Now, with the release of Among Giants, Hanahan shares her own voice as a young star revolutionizing the genre.