Featuring DAYNA STEPHENS (saxophone), FABIAN ALMAZAN (piano), RUDY ROYSTON (drums) and special guest: JEN SHYU (voice)
Album Release | Tuesday June 19 | Jazz Standard New York, NY
With her debut CD, Entry, bassist/composer Linda Oh asserted herself as a unique new voice on the modern jazz scene. On her follow-up, Initial Here, Oh draws deeply upon her rich cultural heritage and broad range of inspirations to further define her musical autobiography.
“This album tells a story about identity,” Oh says. “Cultural identity and musical identity. I wanted to go in a few different directions to explore some more extreme emotions.”
Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and raised in Western Australia, Oh arrived in New York five years ago with a love of jazz, early training in classical bassoon, and an adolescence spent playing electric bass in Aussie rock bands. All of that experience surfaces on Initial Here, from the in-the-tradition ballad playing on “Mr. M” to her buoyant electric basslines on “Deeper Than Happy” and the mournful bassoon woven throughout “Thicker Than Water.”
The quartet that Oh assembled to realize this eclectic blend of material are all equally adept at integrating diverse influences. Dayna Stephens is a graduate of both Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and is also a skilled bassist in his own right. Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan was a classmate of Oh’s at the Manhattan School of Music, where the two quickly formed a musical bond; Oh continues to perform in Almazan’s thrilling trio. And Rudy Royston has become the drummer of choice for artists as diverse as powerhouse saxophonist JD Allen, groundbreaking guitarist Bill Frisell, and forward-thinking bassist Ben Allison.
Despite her thoroughly modern sound and individual approach, Oh expresses a deep love for more traditional jazz. That comes to the fore on “Mr. M,” a languid ballad dedicated to Charles Mingus, and on the quartet’s searching rendition of “Come Sunday,” a result of her excursions into playing in church settings.
Family emerges as a major theme on Initial Here. A trip to Malaysia and China to visit long-unseen relatives made an enormous impact on the compositions for the album. It was Oh’s first trip to either country as an adult, and only her second time back in Malaysia since her family relocated to Australia when she was three years old.
“It was an eye-opening trip,” she recalls. “It was nice to go as an adult and to hear the more personal stories that people never would talk about when you were a kid. And we visited Penang, Malaysia, where my great-grandfather was an artist and sculpted a temple. That was really inspiring to see.”
“Thicker Than Water,” which features vocals in Mandarin Chinese and English by the gifted multilingual vocalist Jen Shyu, is the most direct result of that journey. Essentially a duet between Shyu and Oh, emoting soulfully on both bowed bass and bassoon, the piece is a tribute to Oh’s grandmothers and other female forebears. “They had it really tough,” Oh explains. “They went through a lot and here I am playing music for a living. The immigrant mentality of picking up your whole family and moving to another place for a better life is something very deep and special, and I connect with that sense of always having to work harder because of what our family did for us.”
The opening track, “Ultimate Persona” deals most directly with the idea of personal identity, inspired by the landmark Ingmar Bergman film Persona. It begins the album with a driving rhythmic figure inspired by an Indian polyrhythm cycle. “Persona is such an amazing, powerful film because it goes through so many ups and downs,” Oh says. “I wanted something that intense to start the record. It’s about striving to be something beyond what we are.”
Release date: May 22, 2012 via Greenleaf Music / eOne Distribution
Linda Oh // Upcoming Shows:
Friday May 11 – Mary Lou Williams Festival w/ Linda Oh Quartet, Kennedy Center, Washington D.C.
Tuesday June 19 – Initial Here Album Release, Jazz Standard, New York, NY
Sunday June 3 – Sunday June 10 – Faculty Member at the International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, The Banff Center, Banff, Alberta, CA
Saturday August 4 – Newport Jazz Festival, Newport, RI
w/ Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano, Lawrence Fields, Joey Baron
For more information, visit www.lindaohmusic.com
..:: SOURCE: Fully Altered Media ::..