Melissa Aldana

Melissa Aldana started playing saxophone when she was just six years old. Melissa Aldana, a young saxophonist, began learning from Marcos Aldana, her father who is a well-known jazz saxophonist. Her father taught her two notes and she began to learn from him. She was hooked from that point on and received her first alto saxophone. Her father also taught her how to play it. Marcos Aldana was a master at transcription. Melissa explains that cassettes were used to transcribe when she first began learning. Charlie Parker was the first person who taught me how to play guitar. My dad would pick a song he liked. Then, we would each take one phrase and listen. After that, I would slow down and play the phrase hundreds of times until it sounded just like his. It’s one the best ways to teach children because I learned everything from listening to the masters.” Melissa spent her adolescence learning solos of jazz greats, including Parker, Cannonball Adderley, Michael Brecker, and many others. As she grew up she started exploring other artists and discovered her own talents. She was so inspired by Sonny Rollins when she heard him play that she asked her dad to switch from alto to the tenor sax. Enrique Aldana, Melissa’s grandfather was also a sax player and taught Marcos how he played. Marcos gifted Melissa her grandfather’s Selmer Mark VI to her when she expressed her desire to switch. She still records and plays it today. Melissa began her journey in Santiago’s jazz clubs as a teenager. By 16, she was performing at the Club de Jazz de Santiago. This was the hub of Chilean jazz at that time. Melissa was also informed in 2005 that Danilo Perez, a Panamanian jazz pianist, was visiting Chile to perform with Wayne Shorter Quartet. She was eager to meet him. Danilo’s wife, Marcos’ former student, was also a Berklee College of Music faculty member. Melissa went to sound check and introduced herself to Danilo, who then invited her to perform at the Panama Jazz Festival. Danilo helped arrange auditions at Berklee as well as the New England Conservatory for Melissa. Melissa was accepted to both schools and chose Berklee. Aldana says, “I didn’t go to Berklee in order to learn saxophone because my father taught me how.” Aldana says, “I went to Berklee to grow as musician, be around young musicians and learn from the veterans.” She played with other students in school and studied under Joe Lovano and George Garzone, Frank Tiberi and Hal Crook. Don Byas and Mark Turner were also important influences on her playing. Melissa moved to New York immediately after she graduated from Berklee. George Coleman, the jazz saxophonist legend, was one of her first contacts. Melissa called Emilio Lyons (the famous saxophone repairman) while she was still in Boston to introduce George. George asked Melissa to play the sax for him via phone. It was so well-received that he invited Melissa to his home to give her some lessons on the saxophone. They became close over the years as George mentored Melissa and introduced her to other musicians. He also invited her to his concerts. Melissa spent her first two years in New York listening to jazz, practicing, and meeting new people. Her first album, Free Fall, was an album of originals and covers that she recorded for Greg Osby’s Inner Circle Music label. In 2012, Second Cycle, her second album, was recorded and released. Melissa was invited by Osby to perform a week-long residency at Village Vangaurd. This was her first major break on stage. She has since performed at such prestigious venues like the Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola Blue Note, Jazz Standard and Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), Small’s.

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