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all that jazz THE TOP 8 JAZZ CLUBS in NYC SF JAZZ 2014 Jazz Musician Awards The Two Masters of Jazz

Bill Evans & Miles Davis A Genious Jazz Pianist

Francesca Han

NO.1 FEBRUARY 2014


Contents 4 The Two Masters of Jazz SMiles Davis and Bill Evans by Ashley Kahn

10 The TOP 8 Jazz Clubs

SIntroduce most popular jazz clubs for New Yorker by Hank Shteamer

14 TOP Selling Album Reviews

Check out our list of Gotham’s most elegant jazz clubs by Thomas Conrad

16 Francesca Han Right Music, Right Time by IAN PATTERSON

30 SF JAZZ

San Francisco Jazz Festival, JAZZ Education by Rebeca Mauleón

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 1


“A lot of people ask me where music is going today. I think it’s going in short phrases. If you listen, anybody with an ear can hear that. Music is always changing. It changes because of the times and the technology that’s available, the material that things are made of, like plastic cars instead of steel. So when you hear an accident today it sounds different, not all the metal colliding like it was in the forties and fifties. Musicians pick up sounds and incorporate that into their playing, so the music that they make will be different.”

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 3


Miles Davis and Bill Evans The Two Masters of Jazz in Black & White by Ashley Kahn

K

ind of Blue is a album by

Association of America. It has been

pie, and Tadd Dameron. As with all

from Davis’s sextet to pursue his own

American jazz musician

regarded by many critics as the

bebop-based jazz, Davis’s groups

career, was drafted back into the

Miles Davis, released on

greatest jazz album of all time and

improvised on the chord changes

new recording project, the sessions

August 17, 1959, by Co-

Davis’s masterpiece.

of a given song. Davis was one of

that would become Kind of Blue.

lumbia Records. Recording ses-

The album’s influence on music,

many jazz musicians growing dis-

Kind of Blue was recorded on

sions for the album took place at

including jazz, rock, and classical

satisfied with bebop, and saw its in-

three-track tape in two sessions at

Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New

music, has led music writers to

creasingly complex chord changes

Columbia Records’ 30th Street Stu-

York City on March 2 and April, 1959.

acknowledge it as one of the most

as hindering creativity.

dio in New York City. On March 2, the

The sessions featured Davis’s en-

influential albums ever made. In 2002,

In 1953, the pianist George Russell

tracks “So What”, “Freddie Freeload-

semble sextet, with pianist Bill Evans,

it was one of fifty recordings chosen

published his Lydian Chromatic Con-

er”, and “Blue in Green” were record-

drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul

that year by the Library of Congress

cept of Tonal Organization, which of-

ed for side one of the original LP, and

Chambers, and saxophonists John

to be added to the National Record-

fered an alternative to the practice

on April 22 the tracks “All Blues”, and

Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball”

ing Registry. In 2003, the album was

of improvisation based on chords

“Flamenco Sketches” were recorded,

Adderley. After the entry of Evans

ranked number 12 on Rolling Stone

and chord changes. Abandoning

making up side two. Production was

into his sextet, Davis followed up

magazine’s list of the 500 greatest

the traditional major and minor key

handled by Teo Macero, who had

on the modal experimentations of

albums of all time.

relationships of classical music, Rus-

produced Davis’s previous two LPs,

Milestones by basing Kind of Blue

By late 1958, Davis employed one

sell developed a new formulation

and Irving Townsend.

entirely on modality, in contrast to

of the best and most profitable work-

using scales, or a series of scales, for

As was Miles Davis’s penchant, he

his earlier work with the hard bop

ing bands pursuing the hard bop

improvisations : This approach led

called for almost no rehearsal and

style of jazz.

style. His personnel had become

the way to “modal” in jazz.

the musicians had little idea what

Though precise figures have been

stable: alto saxophonist Cannonball

disputed, Kind of Blue has been described by many music writers not

ideas,

they were to record. As described in

Adderley, tenor saxophonist John

Davis implemented his first modal

the original liner notes by pianist Bill

Coltrane, pianist Bill Evans, long-serv-

composition with the title track of

Evans, Davis had only given the band

only as Davis’s best-selling album,

ing bassist Paul Chambers, and

his studio album Milestones. Satis-

sketches of scales and melody lines

but as the best-selling jazz record of

drummer Jimmy Cobb. His band

fied with the results, Davis prepared

on which to improvise. Once the mu-

all time. On October 7, in 2008, it was

played a mixture of pop standards

an entire album based on modality.

sicians were assembled, Davis gave

such a certified quadruple platinum

and bebop originals by Charlie

Pianist Bill Evans, who had studied

brief instructions for each piece and

in sales by the Recording Industry

Parker, Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gilles-

with Russell but recently departed

then set to taping the sextet in studio.

4 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ

Influenced

by

Russell’s


While the results were impressive with

a means of getting away from the When you go this way, you can go on

fewer chords but infinite possibilities

so little preparation, the persistent

dense chord-laden compositions of forever.You don’t have to worry about

as to what to do with them.”

legend that the entire album was

his time, which Davis had labeled changes and you can do more

As noted by Bill Evans in the LP liner

recorded in one pass is untrue. Only

“thick”. Modal composition, with its with the melody line. It becomes a

notes, “Miles conceived these set-

“Flamenco Sketches” yielded a com-

reliance on scales and modes, rep- challenge to see how melodically

tings only hours before the recording

plete take on the first try. That take,

resented, as Davis called it, “a return innovative you can be. When you’re

dates.” Evans continues with an intro-

not the master, was issued in 1997 as

to melody.” In a 1958 interview with based on chords, you know at the

duction concerning the modes used

a bonus alternate track. The five mas-

Nat Hentoff of The Jazz Review, Davis end of 32 bars that the chords have

in each composition on the album.

ter takes issued, however, were the

“So What” consists of two modes: six-

only other complete takes; an insert

teen measures of the first, followed by

for the ending to “Freddie Freeload-

eight measures of the second, and

er” was recorded, but was not used

then eight again of the first. “Freddie

for release or on the issues of Kind of Blue prior to the 1997 reissue. Pianist Wynton Kelly may not have been happy to see the man he replaced, Bill Evans, back in his old seat. Perhaps to assuage the pianist’s feelings, and also to take advantage of Kelly’s superior skills as both bluesman and accompanist, Davis had Kelly play instead of Evans on the album’s most blues-oriented number, “Freddie Freeloader”. The live album Miles Davis at Newport 1958 docu-

Freeloader” is a standard twelve-bar

Kind of Blue isn’t merely an artistic highlight for Miles Davis, it’s an album that towers above its peers, a record generally considered as the definitive jazz album, a universally acknowledged standard of excellence. Why does Kind of Blue posses such a mystique? Perhaps because this music never flaunts its genius...

blues form. “Blue in Green” consists of a ten-measure cycle following a short four-measure introduction. “All Blues” is a twelve-bar blues form in 6/8 time. “Flamenco Sketches” consists of five scales, which are each played “as long as the soloist wishes until he has completed the series”. Liner notes list Davis as writer of all compositions, but many scholars and fans believe that Bill Evans wrote part or the whole of “Blue in Green”

ments this band. However, the New-

and “Flamenco Sketches”. Bill Evans

port Jazz Festival recording on July 3,

assumed co-credit with Davis for

1958 reflects the band in its hard bop

“Blue in Green” when recording it on

conception, the presence of a Bill Ev-

his Portrait in Jazz album. The Davis

ans only six weeks into his brief tenure

estate acknowledged Evans’ author-

in the Davis band notwithstanding,

elaborated on this form of composi- run out and there’s nothing to do but

ship in 2002. The practice of a band

rather than the modal approach of

tion in contrast to the chord progres- repeat what you’ve just done—with

leader’s appropriating authorship

Kind of Blue. Kind of Blue is based en-

sion predominant in bebop, stating variations. I think a movement in jazz

of a song written by a sideman oc-

tirely on modality in contrast to Da-

“No chords ... gives you a lot more is beginning away from the conven-

curred frequently in the jazz world, of

vis’s earlier work with the hard bop

freedom and space to hear things. tional string of chords. There will be

the album.

style of jazz and its complex chord progression and improvisation. The entire album was composed as a series of modal sketches, in which each performer was given a set of scales that defined the parameters of their improvisation and style. This style was in contrast to more typical means of composing, such as providing musicians with a complete score or, as was more common for improvisational jazz, providing the musicians with a chord progression or series of harmonies. Modal jazz of this type was not unique to this album. Davis himself had previously used the same method on his 1958 Milestones album, the ‘58 Sessions, and Porgy and Bess, on which he used modal influences for collaborator Gil Evans’s third stream compositions. Also, the original concept and method had been developed in 1953 by pianist and writer George Russell. Davis saw Russell’s methods of composition as

Miles Davis and Bill Evans making Kind of Blue Photographed by Don Hunstein

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 5


“He looked like a Harvard professor on a Harlem street corner.”

E

vans’ more subdued playing

Street,” Miles turned and said, “Love

bit more, adding: “It makes me a

good,” he would say,“a great deal for

style did not help ingratiate

for Sale,” and kicked it off.

bit angry. I want more responsibility

my confidence.”

the young pianist to Davis’

Summer of ’58 found Evans in-

among black people and black

But it went deeper than mere

following any more than his

creasingly comfortable in the group.

musicians to be accurate and to

self-assurance. Evans’ immersion in

appearance did. He lacked the

He was no longer the youngest

be spiritually intelligent to say only

an integrated setting, surrounded by

drama Garland had delivered and

member but he remained the only

black people can play jazz is as

incredibly strong, creative individuals,

had generously supplied behind

white

continued

dangerous as saying only white

forced a change that transcended

the other soloists in the band. Davis

to tease him, but he had stood the

people are intelligent.” But in ’58, the

questions of white or black. “Being

adored Evans’ contrasting sense

trumpeter’s skewering and earned

pianist held his tongue, while the

with the band and the real honest

of space and subtlety, but a noisy,

Davis’ respect.

musician. Miles

pressures of touring the constant

personalities involved really helped

packed jazz joint was not the ideal

But the unease Evans faced in

travel, the long hours, the persistent

confirm my own identity, made me

location for “crystal notes or sparkling

certain venues grew. “It was more of

questioning of Evans’ presence on

realize that being myself was the

water cascading down from some

an issue with the fans. The guys in the

the bandstand mounted.

only place to be.”

clear waterfall,” as the trumpeter later

band defended me staunchly. We

Takes one to know one goes the

After a few festival and special

praised the pianist’s sound.

were playing black clubs, and guys

old schoolyard retort. By the end of

appearances recordings of which

With mixed emotions, Evans per-

would come up and say, ‘What’s

the summer, Davis knew Evans well

contradict Evans’ alleged inability

severed. He felt intimidated, though

that white guy doing there?’ They

enough to recognize, and identify

to “play fast hard enough” and a

challenged and ecstatic: “I thought

said, ‘Miles wants him there he’s sup-

with, certain personality traits. “Bill

few more weeks with the band, he

I was inadequate. I felt the group

posed to be there’.” Reverse or not, it

was a very sensitive person and it

departed in November. To Miles,

to be composed of superhumans.”

was a form of racism, and Davis and

didn’t take much to set him off; a lot

their joint destiny remained unful-

But the band began to find a new,

Evans were of one mind about it.

of people were saying he didn’t play

filled. A few months later, despite

smoother groove, as Adderley noted.

Miles: “Crow Jim is what they call

fast enough and hard enough for

having hired Wynton Kelly to take

“When he started to use Bill, Miles

that. It’s a lot of the Negro musicians

them, that he was too delicate,” Davis

over the piano spot, Davis called

changed his style from very hard to

mad because most of the best-pay-

recalled. Evans was fast approach-

Evans and set up studio time at Co-

a softer approach.”

ing jobs go to the white musicians

ing his professional limit; a decision

lumbia Records’ 30th Street Studio.

to depart seemed imminent.

In August 1959, the evidence of their

By the end of May, on Miles’ 32nd

playing what the Negroes created.

birthday, the sextet recorded a num-

But I don’t go for this, because I think

Davis sensed that there was an-

final effort together, and one more

ber of sides that leaned heavily on

prejudice one way is just as bad as

other factor propelling Evans to

compelling argument for a color

ballads, and revealed a certain ten-

the other way.”

leave the group. “On top of all this

blind approach to jazz-making, was delivered : Kind of Blue.

sion within the band.

Evans: “This is an age-old dis-

shit was the thing about wanting to

“Paul Chambers and Jimmy Cobb

proven theory that white men can-

form his own band and play his own

Jimmy Cobb notes that Davis’

were getting edgy having to hold

not play jazz. What people who are

music.” In an ironic twist, Evans’ per-

famous sextet was so talent-packed

back and wanted to cook on some-

talking that way might be saying is

sonal resolve and musical vision had

that it was fated from the outset to

thing,” Evans recalled. After record-

they want to get credit for develop-

been steeled in the fire of derision he

fracture into a series of powerful,

ing rather hushed versions of “Stella

ing the music as a tradition.”

faced almost nightly. Though he “felt

genre-defining bands. Within a year

exhausted in every way it did a lot of

of Evans’ exit, that’s exactly what

by Starlight” and “On Green Dolphin 6 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ

Years later, Evans opened up a


The really good jazz musicians only respect musicians they feel are worth respecting. happened, each splinter group led

veracity, but the tendency to hold

more and more sidemen, the pianist

When Shirley Horn insisted in 1990

by a soloist initially hand-picked by

him to the exact letter of his words.

shook his head. Evans missed his lyri-

that Miles reconsider playing the

cal buddy, and blamed the change

gentle ballads and modal tunes of

on considerations of commerce.

his Kind of Blue period, he demurred.

Davis while still young and largely

“If you were to take any number

unknown: Coltrane, Adderley, Kelly

of things he said out of context, you

and, establishing his own trio for-

could be completely on the wrong

“I would like to hear more of the

mat and returning to chord-based

track. Because he could say one

consummate melodic master,” Ev-

And yet, the Davis and Evans

explorations, Bill Evans. History did,

thing today, and the opposite tomor-

ans commented in the late ’70s.

dialogue never ended. As saxophon-

and continues to, look upon the

row for reasons that have to do with

“But I feel that big business and his

ist Dave Liebman recalls from his

nine month Davis and Evans union

momentary response or defense

record company have had a cor-

days with Davis at the height of Miles’

through the lens of race. Down Beat,

mechanisms or who knows what.”

“Nah, it hurts my lip,” was the excuse.

rupting influence on his material. It’s

electric period: “He said Bill was real-

in a 1960 profile on Evans, reported of

For one who never hesitated be-

tempting for the musician to preju-

ly the guy who opened the doors for

the “rumbles in some quarters that

ing outrageous or outspoken, Davis

dice his own views when recording

him musically. He said to me, ‘I used

the color of Bill’s skin automatically

must have been atypically talked

opportunities are so infrequent, but I

to call Bill up and tell him to take the

depreciated his value to the group.”

out when he confided to Playboy

for one am determined to resist the

phone off the hook. Just leave it off

And recently, in PBS’ 10-part opus

in 1962: “This black-white business is

temptation. “It just doesn’t attract

and play for me because I loved the

Jazz, the voluminous Ken Burns

ticklish to try to explain.”

me. I’m of a certain period, a certain

way he played.’”

compressed Evans’ significant con-

As the ’60s played out and musi-

evolution. I hear music differently,” he

As tempting as it is to sum up their

tributions to a few moments focused

cal fashion rocked ’n’ rolled, the pair

confessed, adding: “I mean, for me,

joint efforts with Kind of Blue, Davis

on the white guy in Miles’ band.

kept in touch sporadically. Davis kept

comparing electric bass to acoustic

and Evans were not all about melan-

bass is sacrilege.”

choly and moodiness. On Jazz at the

Even Davis, writing on his former

himself abreast of Evans’ music, while

pianist’s choice of sidemen after

Evans noted how apart they were

Davis felt as strongly as Evans. But

Plaza, a simple album Miles’ sextet re-

their split, saw Evans’ famous Scott

drifting musically. Davis’ new mid

to the trumpeter, blasphemy was the

corded live on Aug. 9, 1958, there’s a

LaFaro-Paul Motian trio not in musi-

’60s quintetincreased its reliance on

idea of remaining static stylistical-

version of “My Funny Valentine” fea-

cal terms, but as a return to a less

modal structures, unlocking and rec-

ly. He singled out the modal jazz he

turing Davis and Evans as the sole

than progressive, all white situation.

reating the jazz vocabulary.

had pioneered with Evans.

soloists; Trane and Cannonball both

“It’s a strange thing about a lot of

Meanwhile, Evans reembraced

“’So What’ or Kind of Blue, they

lay out. Muted trumpet and brightly

white players that after they make it

“functional harmony”, retracing his

were done in that era, the right hour,

stroked piano are alone to spar, at

in a black group they always go and

steps to and then from bebop. Over

the right day, and it happened. It’s

moments halting and punchy, then

play with all white guys. Bill did that,

the years, he created, and continued

over,” Davis told Ben Sidran in 1986.

playful and flowing. It’s a lightheart-

and I’m not saying he could have

to explore, a nuanced, texture-rich

He further declared, “What I used to

ed conversation between two mas-

gotten any black guys better than

sound that became his signature,

play with Bill Evans, all those different

ters, enjoying the composition and

Scott or Paul, I’m telling what I have

most often within an acoustic trio.

modes, and substitute chords, we

the company. It blasts apart any

had the energy then and we liked it.

misperception that the two were only

But I have no feel for it anymore. it’s

capable of creating sounds somber,

more like warmed-over turkey.”

serious and bittersweet.

seen happen over and over again.” Davis did not balance his comments with the fact that among

Watching as Davis introduced amplified

instruments

and

rock

rhythms into his sound, and added

many black jazz musicians whom Evans hired over the years, Philly Joe Jones consistently reappeared. Nor did he mention that Jack DeJohnette figured prominently in one of Evans’ most powerful lineups, alongside bassist Eddie Gomez, before joining Davis in 1969. But then the issue of race is often fueled by what appears, and seldom by what is. And Miles often approached the truth in an oblique way. “He is a very paradoxical, many-sided person,” Evans once commented, waving away not Davis’

From left to right - John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Bill Evans making Kind of Blue, Bill Evans making Kind of Blue.

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 7


From left to right - John Coltrane, Cannonball Adderley, Miles Davis and Bill Evans making Kind of Blue Kind of Blue is a studio album by American jazz musician Miles Davis, released on August 17, 1959, by Columbia Records. Recording sessions for the album took place at Columbia’s 30th Street Studio in New York City on March 2 and April 22, 1959. The sessions featured Davis’s ensemble sextet, with pianist Bill Evans, drummer Jimmy Cobb, bassist Paul Chambers, and saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley. After the entry of Evans into his sextet, Davis followed up on the modal experimentations of Milestones by basing Kind of Blue entirely on modality, in contrast to his earlier work with the hard bop style of jazz.

8 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ


I

t was a deep rift that became

But no fanciful aspirations of

deeper as the decade wore on,

achieving “white Negro” status had

a rift Bill Evans could never have

him hoodwinked. Evans was not

known he would eventually be

looking for a “ghetto pass,” and felt

straddling. His approach to jazz had

disdain for those who romanticized

begun innocently enough in his

the jazz life: “They live their full lives

hometown of Plainfield, N.J. Still a

on the fringe of jazz and yet miss its

youngster in the ’40s, Evans fell under

essence entirely. They take the neuro-

the spell of Nat Cole’s piano and later

ses that are integral in every art and

found he could actually improvise

blow them up to where they’re the

on the sheet music before him. Music

whole thing.”

took him through high school and,

In early ’58, George Russell drove

like for Miles, was his ticket to college.

Evans over to the Colony Club in the

But unlike DavisEvans traveled to the

black, Bedford-Stuyvesant section of

Deep South and diligently finished

Brooklyn to sit in with the sextet. Evans

four years of music courses at

knew it was an audition and that if

Southeastern Louisiana College.

he played his cards right, one of the

Davis had already been in town

most prestigious positions in the jazz

for 10 years when Evans first stepped

world could be his. Davis and Adder-

into the New York jazz scene in 1955.

ley had already spoken of the pianist

Evans immediately discerned a stiff-

and had agreed he was well worth

er, more formal code of cross-racial

a listen. By the end of the night, Miles

communication than he had expe-

told Bill that he’d be playing their next

rienced in Louisiana. Contrary to the

engagement in Philadelphia.

general assumptions of Southern

Evans was swept away in a flurry

racism, Louisiana had been a pock-

of gigs, the majority in black night-

et of racial ease.

clubs like the Colony. Though Evans

New York City helped snap Evans

had begun to make a name for him-

back to a black/white reality. He im-

self in New York circles, it was a tough

mersed himself in jazz culture, taking

and unwelcoming audience he en-

a variety of sideman gigs. He dabbled

countered on the road. Red Garland

in third-stream projects, recording

was a tough act to replace. The dy-

with forward-looking groups led by

namic pianist had been one of the

George Russell and Charles Mingus.

popular sparkplugs in Davis’ hard-

His lifestyle also took a turn away from

charging rhythm section for almost

the mainstream. His first long-term

three years.

romance was with a black woman named Peri Cousins. He experimented with narcotics and by the late ’50s was hooked on heroin.

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 9


THE TOP 8 JAZZ CLUBS in NYC

OUR EDITOR’S RATING! Check out our list of Gotham’s most elegant jazz clubs, perfect for impressing visitors or your next date.

Fat Cat Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola

Iridium Fat cat is a cultural institution featuring live music, games, art space

Hailed as “the best jazz room in the

Iridium lures upscale crowds with a

and innovative educational pro-

city,” by none other than jazz icon

lineup that’s split between household

gramming. Our musical offerings

Tony Bennett, Dizzy’s Club Coca-Co-

names and those known only to the

highlight emerging artists and leg-

la is Jazz at Lincoln Center’s one-

jazz-savvy. The sight lines and sound

ends of genres ranging from jazz to

stop shop for some of the best live

system are truly worthy of celebra-

latin, classical and world music. we

jazz and sophisticated soul food this

tion. Long the site of a Monday-night

sustain the tradition of late night-

Since its inception in 1981, Blue Note

side of New Orleans. With 140 seats,

residency by guitar icon Les Paul,

ly jam sessions which makes New

has become one of the premier jazz

the club is open year-round and

the club now hosts a steady stream

York the jazz capital. these sessions

clubs in the world and a cultural in-

also features stunning views of Cen-

of veteran pickers who perform in

allow young musicians to earn their

stitution in Greenwich Village. Owner

tral Park and the Manhattan skyline,

Paul’s honor. Long the site of a Mon-

chops alongside veterans, and pro-

and founder Danny Bensusan had a

an acoustically impeccable per-

day-night residency by guitar icon

vide pages for a living musical lan-

vision to create a jazz club in Green-

formance space, world-class jazz

Les Paul, the club now hosts a steady

guage to be rewritten.

wich Village that would treat deserv-

artists at an affordable price, and a

stream of veteran pickers who per-

casual late-night scene. world-class

form in Paul’s honor. Long the site of

jazz artists at an affordable price, and a casual late-night scene. • Address:10 Columbus Cir #5,

• http://jalc.org/ • Pre-Reservation is required

ing artists with respect, while allow• Address: 82 W 3rd St

ing patrons to see the world’s finest

a Monday-night residency by guitar

New York, NY 10012

jazz musicians in a close, comfort-

icon Les Paul, the club now hosts a

• Tel : (646) 820-9452

able setting. Artists who had stopped

steady stream of veteran pickers who

• http://fatcatmusic.org

playing in jazz clubs decades before,

perform in Paul’s honor.

• Pre-Reservation is required

such as Sarah Vaughn, Lionel Hamp-

Manhattan, NY 10019 • Tel : (212) 258-9595

Blue Note

ton, Dizzy Gillespie, Stanley Turrentine, • Address: 1650 Boradway

Oscar Peterson, and Tito Puente.

New York, NY 10058 • Tel :(212) 582-2121 • http://iridiumjazzclub.com • Pre-Reservation is required

• Address: 131 W 3rd St New York, NY 10012 • Tel : (212) 475-8592 • http://bluenote.net

10 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ


aside the giant velvet curtain. Considering its 150 people capacity, Zinc Bar is quite spacious, unlike many jazz clubs in the city. The tables are comfortably spread apart and, most important, you can see the stage clearly from any seat. • Address : 82 W 3rd St New York, NY 10012 • Tel : (646) 820-9452 • http://shapeshifterlab.com

Smoke Jazz and Supper Club Birldland

Smoke has augmented its reputation as one of the most distinguished jazz venues in New York City with an

The Birdland jazz club, located in

addition very uncommon to jazz

New York City, is a historic jazz venue

clubs great food. Smoke serves in-

that has been in the city since 1949.

novative American Bistro fare devel-

Despite experiencing a series of clo-

oped by critically acclaimed exec-

sures, re-openings, and several relo-

utive chef Patricia Williams. Smoke is

cations throughout its long history,

proud to be New York’s only boutique

the club has resided in Manhattan’s

Jazz & Supper Club with an award

Theater District since 1986, close to its

winning chef.

original location.

Shape Shifter Lab • Address: 2751 Broadway

• Address : 315 W 44th Street

New York, NY 10025

New York, NY 10036

• Tel : (212) 475-8592

Jazz bassist Matthew Garrison’s slick

• Tel : (212) 581-3080

• http://smokejazz.com

Gowanus performance space hosts

• http://birdland.com

nightly performances of live experimental music. During the day, the joint provides state-of-the-art rehearsal, recording and exhibition space to the neighborhood’s artists. • Address: 18 Whitwell Pl Gowanus, Brooklyn 11215 • Tel : (646) 820-9452 • http://shapeshifterlab.com

by Hank Shteamer

J@LC

Zinc Bar If you’re looking for a unique experience, Zinc Bar is your best bet. To enter, take a few steps down upon arriving, open the door and move ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 11


2014 BEST SELLING ALBUM REVIEWS By Hrayr Attarian Abrams is the voice of rea-

Robert Paredes, lends some

but he expands the group to

son, picking his spots, spilling

respectability to Styx’s bom-

a septet: In addition to trum-

beautiful, or comprehensible

bastic “Grand Illusion” and

peter Peter Evans, saxophon-

effusions

the Carpenters’ sappy “Bless

ist John Irabagon and drum-

around

Mitchell

and Lewis.

the Beasts and the Children”

mer Kevin Shea, we’ve got

In these stark sonic land-

by emphasizing the melodic

Ron Stabinsky on piano, Da-

scapes, there are almost no

strengths of both tunes. But

vid Taylor on bass trombone

melodic, harmonic or rhyth-

the banjo, over enunciated

and Brandon Seabrook on

mic plotting points. MoWt of

vocals

banjo and electronics.

the whirring and murmur-

tempos

come

The music on Red Hot, the

Roscoe Mitchell Quartet

ing on “Tnoona” cannot be

off like attempts at cheap

band’s sixth studio album, is

Live at “A Space” 1975 (2013)

identified by any instrument.

laughs. Then there’s the mix

warped almost literally. Many

Genres: Modern Jazz

Yet there are moments of

of electronic backdrops and

of these songs, all of which

Wadada Leo Smith & Tumo Occupy the World

epiphany,

irrational

clean clarinet lines in “Hel-

Elliott composed, sound like

Genres: Modern Jazz

Only the most modern of

gestures, emerging from si-

lo It’s Me” and “Tie a Yellow

someone’s stack of Jelly Roll

listeners will be able to get

lence, gain access to previ-

Ribbon Round the Ole Oak

Morton and Louis Armstrong

As he did in last year’s Pulit-

with the 38 year-old music. Its

ously inaccessible regions of

Tree,” which cross over into

78s that had been left out in

zer-nominated Ten Freedom

barriers to entry are extreme.

the subconscious. Some of

easy-listening territory. These

the sun for a few days. On

Summers, trumpeter com-

It comes from two nights in

the experiments fail: “Olobo”

stark sonic landscapes.

“Zelienople,” for instance, the

poser Wadada Leo again

1975 at A Space, an artist-run

simply lays there, inert, an in-

Mike Shanley

piano starts and stops, the

melds social concerns with

gallery in downtown Toronto

terminable 10 minutes trom-

banjo is plucked maniacally,

deeply personal statements.

which, is still open for busi-

bone solo.

the drumming is deliberate-

TUMO, the ensemble Smith

ness. Four of the eight tracks

Mike Shanley

when

and too

double often

time

ly arrhythmic and the horns

leads and conducts here, is

were released on the Cana-

solo over one another with

a 21 piece Finnish improvisa-

dian Sackville label, on LP in

little regard for melody and

tional orchestra consisting

1976 and on CD in 2002; four

none for harmony. The title

of players who prove equal-

tracks are previously unis-

track begins with 48 seconds

ly fearless tackling Smith’s

sued. The band is Roscoe

of computer-generated sine

challenging

Mitchell; George Lewis in

wave followed by a few ban-

launching

his debut recording; Muhal

jo strums and more electron-

both solo and collective,

Richard Abrams and Spencer Barefield. In 1975, Mitchell’s primary affiliation was the Art Ensemble of Chica-

juxtaposing the title compo-

in traditional jazz. And then,

sition a meditation on the

weirdly, the band engages

Occupy movement with trib-

in a very cool tune that in-

utes.

Genres: Modern Jazz

terpolates wait for it songs

If you thought the comic

And then, weirdly, the band

classical avant-garde. Lew-

Genres: Modern Jazz

avant-garde free-jazz quar-

engages in a very cool tune

is’ blats in the right channel

by the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

tet Mostly Other People Do

that

sound entirely disassociat-

Rearrangements of the pop

the Killing went off the deep

lates wait

ed from Mitchell’s chirps in

hits from the 1970s usually

end years ago, it just found

for it

the left. It is startling when

come with a heavy dose of

a deeper spot. Last year’s

songs

seemingly

utter-

irony, but it’s hard to tell if vi-

bizarre album Slippery Rock

by the

the

braphonist Dan Moore had

found bassist Moppa Elliott’s

Red Hot.

two arrive at rough unisons.

that in mind when assem-

group using smooth jazz to

Steve Greenlee

Barefield does not “play” the

bling this album and the

inform its oddball merrymak-

guitar but occasionally in-

Misfit Toys. The ad-hoc group,

ing. This time he goes all the

serts motivational strums or

which includes Matt Wilson,

way back to 1920s through

vivid configurations of color.

Paul Elwood and the late

1930s hot jazz. Not only that,

ances

random

coincide

and

12 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ

improvisations

ic noises that have no place

the European and American

has more in common with

and

Mostly Other People Do the Killing Red Hot (2013) Misfit Toys Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

go. The quartet at A Space

scores

interpo-


Smith places a strong em-

trumpeter’s debut with Ger-

to know how much of 1/1

Festival. The quintet was wrap-

phasis on group statements,

man

instrumentalist

was preplanned and how

ping up a European tour, and

yet

even

during

multi-

ensem-

and influential techno pro-

much was in-the- moment,

their extended takes on the

ble passages each voice

ducer Moritz von Oswald

but there are moments, es-

five compositions they served

is limned so precisely that

and his nephew, Laurens. The

pecially during “Transition,”

up in Soho were tight.

the dichotomy between the

trio’s debut performance at

where everyone seems in

The Wisconsin raised, in

“individual” and the “col-

Kristiansand, Norway’s 2013

perfect synch: it’s not always

London based Janisch calls

lective” virtually disappears.

Punkt Festival, while strong,

the trumpeter following the

things to order with a soulful

Despite the epic sweep of

was largely misleading; the

von Moritzs’ synth colors and

bass intro to his own “Precise-

his themes, Smith also avoids

show

occupied

harmonies; there are times

ly Now,” punctuated by the

grandiosity: the solos of alto

some of 1/1’s more ethere-

when the keyboardist’s ap-

saxophonist

Inna-

al territory, but Molvær and

pear to respond to Molvær

nen and tenor saxophonist

his partners also traveled to

Fredrik Ljungkvist are tender

far more beat-driven, and

and

danceable terrain.

pure, there are effects.

Mikko

querulously

barking;

flutist Juhani Aaltonen’s ex-

certainly

Better, perhaps, for live per-

occasional clinking of diners’

as well. While the trumpet-

Nils Petter Molvaer & Moritz von Oswald 1/1 (2013)

er’s tone is largely clean and

Genres: Modern Jazz

dy, which Colom and Osby fol-

cutlery. Ortiz and Royston briefly set up the unison horn melolow with blistering solos. Osby,

That Molvær is comfort-

It could turn out that the best

whose live album Banned in New York possibly inspired this

otic, bird like flutters are re-

formance, but being a studio

able enough in his own

live jazz album released in the

deemed from preciousness

concoction, 1/1 is consider-

skin to avoid virtuosity for its

U.S. this year will be one re-

one’s title, provides a masterly intro of the same length to

by the earthy growls and

ably darker, and all the bet-

own sake instead, focusing

corded at a British pizza joint

chirps that emanate from

ter for it. Molvær has been

heavily on tone, melody and

in 2011.That was when pianist

Fats Waller’s “Jitterbug Waltz,”

playing a lot more unpro-

the responsive demands of

Aruán Ortiz and bassist Mi-

then returns after Colom’s

cessed horn lately, though

participating in a trio is part

chael Janisch brought their

quick read of the melody with a solo. Janisch’s bass quiets

the orchestra behind him. “The Bell 2” is a sequel to a Smith composition that was

here it’s often drenched in

of what has made him so

co-led quintet an internation-

originally included on Antho-

reverb to expand its place

much successful. He pos-

al ensemble featuring estab-

to a steady heartbeat as Ortiz

ny Braxton’s debut on Del-

in the soundscape. On the

sesses chops-a-plenty, and

lished star Greg Osby on alto

begins his solo soft and slow,

mark, and Smith has struc-

opening “Noise 1,” a dark

the sophistication of his me-

saxophone, Barcelona’s Ray-

The piano then building in

tured this piece as a dialogue

synth undercurrent provides

lodic ideas suggests a deep-

nald Colom on trumpet and

abstraction and intensity un-

among groups, not just indi-

the spare context over which

er harmonic or rythmic lan-

versatile veteran Rudy Royston

til Ortiz exits with a snippet of

viduals. “Mount Kilimanjaro”

Molvær improvises, leading

guage.

on drums to the Pizza Express

Waller’s theme.

is an expansion on Smith’s

to a final repetitive motif im-

Susan Milly

Jazz Club for the London Jazz

Bill Beuttler

earlier “Africana World,” pri-

bued of both the trumpeter’s

marily a showcase for its

intrinsic lyricism and beauti-

honoree, bassist Lindberg.

fully pure tone. “Step By Step,”

“Crossing

Southern

on the other hand, is more

Road” is another tribute, this

pulse-driven, initially predi-

time to the late saxophonist

cated on a simple synth bass

Marion Brown.

line and some spare elec-

Alex Grimwade

tronic percussion. More hyp-

The Best

Hardcastle VII

notic than dance-inducing,

Concord Jazz

Trippin’ ‘N’ Rhythm

on

a

TOP 10 Chart For FEBRUARY, 2014

1

BONEY JAMES

6

PAUL HARDCASTLE

as the von Moritzs gradually build the track with nearly imperceptible additional lay-

2

DAVE KOZ AND FRIENDS

7

STEVE COLE

ers, Molvær patiently builds a

Summer Horns

Pulse

thematic overlay, providing a

Concord/CMG

Artistry/Mack Ave.

clear focus all the more compelling for the long spaces he leaves, creating a terrific

Nils Petter Molvaer & Moritz von Oswald 1/1 (2013) Genres: Modern Jazz

3

JEFF GOLUB

8

VINCENT INGALA

sense of tension released

Train Keeps A Rolling

Can’t Stop Now

only when he reenters.

eOne

vincentingala.com

The set’s longest track, “Transition,” returns to more brooding terrain. There’s a

4

BRIAN SIMPSON

9

EUGE GROOVE

pulse, yes, but soft and subtle,

Just What You Need

House of Groove

buried within the synth wash

Shanachie

Shanachie

With the breakup of his trio

that provides the shape and,

responsible for the superb

for Molvær the context. It as-

Baboon Moon, it’s been a fair

sumes even more form as

question to wonder: what’s

a deep bass line emerges,

In the Moment

Soul Quest

next for Nils Petter Molvær?

though

Shanachie

Shanachie

One possible answer is cer-

harmonic center still retains

tainly 1/1, the Norwegian

a somber mood. It’s hard

the

composition’s

5

PIECES OF A DREAM

10

KEIKO MATSUI

ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 13


Francesca Han Pianist Francesca Han’s music contains a certain duality. She’s a classical and improvising jazz pianist with one foot in the jazz tradition and the other wedged firmly in the door of contemporary jazz. An established jazz musician in South Korea, Han acquired new vocabulary studying and playing in New York, where she also collaborated with composer Jeff Fairbank’s experiment in fusing Korean traditional music with jazz.

H

by Ian Patterson

ans debut was a mixing standards

left-hand dishes out bold chords sparingly, maxi-

and originals, whereas Illusion presents

mizing their impact. She exudes energy, and even

all-originals.

Alessi

the numerous islands of pause that mark her so-

brings beefy solos to a number of com-

los notably on “Delusion”—act as highly sprung

Trumpeter

Ralph

positions. The heads are clearly signposted, but

launching pads for further exploration.

the rest is a thrilling ride, with drummer Justin

The impressionistic vignette “Subtle Bitterness”

Brown and alternating bassis’ts Drew Gress and

bristles with the slightly oppressive atmosphere of

Corcoran Holtenjoying tremendous freedom with-

storm brewing; an effect heightened by Brown’s

in clearly defined parameters. There’s a palpable

rumbling drums. It gives way to the melodic “Sha-

sense of the musicians feeding off each others’

olinish,” a Brad Mehldau-esque number which

energy and intuitive moves, whether in tentative

grows from a simple to-and-fro between Han

passages, the trio feeling its way into “Study 34”

and Holt into an expansive dialogue of depen-

during the intro, or in the rhythmically charged

dence and independence, with Brown anchoring

exchanges that dominate the session. Alessi not

the trio. “Castalia” is a haunting interpretation of

only brings added fire to numbers like “Study 34”

an elegiac Frederic Chopin Etude. Han’s quietly

and “Count Yourself,” but interacts sympathetically

stated blues lyricism is buoyed by Gress’ beauti-

with Han in their little dovetailing gestures, in the

fully weighted bass lines. In Greek mythology, the

duo’s tightly spun hard bop unison lines and in

nymph-turned fountain Castalia inspired poetry in

the bolder give-and-take of extended soloing.

those who listened.

Whether as a trio or quartet, the musicians make a strong unified statement.

The trio improvisation “Gravity” closes an absorbing set in angular mode, yet even when

Han’s playing draws from a deep well of ideas.

playing free jazz the trio sounds perfectly attuned.

Her dynamic runs, with “Contemporary” and

After only two recordings, Han already sounds like

“Hypatia” providing highlights, are punctuated

the finished article. Solos to a number of compo-

by little tangential flurries and accents here and

sitions. The heads are clearly signposted, but the

there, kernels of ideas that, over the long course,

rest is a thrilling ride, with drummer Justin Brown

color her improvisations like knots in polished

and alternating bassists Drew Gress and Corcor-

hardwood—striking but essential parts of the

an Holtenjoying tremendous freedom within

overall contours. A deft two-handed player, Han’s

clearly defined parameters.

14 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ


Korea has never been more fashionable, lead-

Though destined to become a jazz pianist, Han

ing the way in technological advances and dic-

didn’t turn her back entirely on classical music:

my art. Meeting musicians with the same affinity

tating hair styles, television viewing, eye shape

“Fortunately, thanks to my college professor I de-

Han absorbed the music historical greats like

and pop music trends across Asia and beyond.

veloped an interest in Bartók. I enjoyed playing

pianists Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk, and dis-

The mindboggling response to singer PSY’s song

their music,” says Han. “After I got into jazz I played

covered in New York great modern pianists such as

“Gangnam Style,” with over a billion hits on You

with many opera singers and string players.”

Kenny Kirkland, Jason Moran and Craig Taborn: “I

Tube, epitomizes the phenomena of the so-called

Though Han rarely gives classical piano recitals

took some lessons from Jason Moran and learned

“Korean Wave.” Fewer people, inevitably, are

these days, she is quick to acknowledge that her

so much from him about composition and impro-

aware of the depth of Korean jazz talent, amply

classical training has provided a good technical

visation,” Han relates. Another musician who had

demonstrated on the essential compilation Into

foundation in terms of jazz: “Ultimately, to make

a significant influence on Han’s development was

the Light Traditional Music and Korean Jazz. And

beautiful music some technical skills are required,”

trumpeter Ralph Alessi: “Studying with Ralph Ales-

whilst Korean jazz may not make US President

she states. At the same time jazz has helped Han

si challenged me in many ways,” acknowledges

Obama, UK Prime Minister Cameron or UN Chief

gain a better appreciation of classical music:

Han. “I had to deal with lots of space, meaningful

Ban Ki-Moon strut their funky stuff as they have all

“Jazz has definitely led me to a better understand-

space. I was thinking differently about improvising.”

reputedly don e to Gangnam Style, it’s enjoying

ing of classical music, particularly with regards to

vibrant growth as perhaps never before.

harmony,” she says.

was great. It satisfied my thirst.”

In New York Han played in a variety of settings, with singers, in her own trio and regularly with

One of the most impressive jazz talents to have

Han talks of the “humanity” in classical music

composer Jeff Fairbanks Project Hansori’ Jazz Or-

emerged from Korea in recent years is pianist or

but that jazz is her main idiom Han is in no doubt:

chestra. Fairbank’s Jazz Orchestra experimented

composer Francesca Han, whose technical com-

”Jazz satiated my thirst and liberated my soul to

with a fusion of jazz and Asian music, incorpo-

mand of her instrument is matched by a bold

some degree,” Han explains. “I believe that jazz is

rating Korean traditional music and dancers. For

improvisational style that draws from traditional

a tool that draws out the inner urge to make real

Han, the fusion was quite a natural one: “Korean

roots of jazz and more contemporary influences.

communication with myself as a musician.” This

traditional music is a pure improvising form of art.

At times, Han’s improvisations veer towards mod-

classical-jazz duality can be heard on Han’s very

I see the possibilities of combing jazz with tradi-

ern-classical but it’s a rhythmically vibrant jazz

personal interpretation of Chopin’s Etude in E-flat

aesthetic that dominates her playing. The Great

minor Op. 10 No.6 on her solo album, Ascetic,

American Songbook, saxophonist John Coltrane

though as Han explains, it is something of a mu-

and pianists Bud Powell and Brad Mehldau inspire

sical departure for her: “It was not my usual taste.

her in equal measure, but her voice is her own.

I am not interested in playing classical pieces

2012 was a big year for Han; she returned to her

in jazz mode, but in this piece there were simple

native South Korea after eight years in New York

rhythms and harmonies, which intrigued me so I

and released two CDs. The first of these, Illusion is

decided to play it quietly but passionately.”

a trio/quartet recording bristling with energy and

Quietly but passionately could well describe

intuitive interplay. The second, Ascetic is Han’s first

Han’s journey as a jazz musician thus far. Han

solo piano recording, whose emotional range and

made a name for herself at home but in 2004

technical finesse further underlines the pianist’s

she left her native South Korea to take a Master’s

wealth of ideas.

Degree in Jazz Performance at Queens College,

Han gained a BA in classical piano perfor-

New York. Han combined studying with performing

mance, though as she relates it wasn’t exactly a

around the city and her debut recording, Frances-

labor of love: “Honestly speaking, I was not really

ca Han—a mixture of original compositions and

into classical music at all during my college years,”

reworking of jazz standards—featured top New

Han admits. “Perhaps I didn’t like to play exactly

York musicians, bassist Corcoran Holt and drum-

what’s written.” As a teenager, Han listened to

mer Jerome Jennings.

American and British pop and rock and her natu-

The transition from South Korea to New York was,

ral inclination towards freer forms of music led her

however, not an easy one at first: “It was difficult to

to join a rock band as a keyboard player whilst at

adapt, of course, not only for the language but

college: “I was just working out what type of music

culturally,” says Han. Though Han describes herself

I liked to play.”

as a somewhat unconventional South Korean the

Music always comes to me without planning. I'd say just being myself at any time would be my plan."

Han was in the rock band for three years. It

move to New York was still a culture shock: “It was

tional Korean music. I do want to explore more the

was Deep Purple keyboard player Jon Lord who

not as easy as I thought it would be,” admits Han.

possibilities of Korean traditional music,” says Han.

turned Han onto improvised music: “I heard Jon

“I remember the first shock was the different way

“I have a concert in July 2013 which is this kind of

Lord’s improvisations in concert. I’d mimic the jazz

of caring. For example, the straightforward way of

project. Let’s see where it goes!”

sounds. It made me curious about improvisation

speaking, people expressing their emotions hon-

Han’s two recent CDs see the pianist explor-

and jazz.” The first jazz CD that Han listened to was

estly, etc. With time and patience I adapted okay.

ing original compositions, though she hasn’t yet

pianist Bill Evans’s You Must Believe in Spring, a gift

Many good friends helped me out obviously.”

turned her back on jazz standards: “I like writing

from a friend. It was a pivotal moment in shaping

In spite of the initial difficulties of adapting to

my own music and shaping standards into my

Han’s musical direction: “That Bill Evans album has

a foreign language and culture, She reflects. “In

own style. I still like to play standards at club gigs

quite crucial meaning for me,” Han affirms. “Its lyri-

Korea I was burning with curiosity and it was my

but on Illusion and Ascetic I just wanted to play

cism and emotional content totally blew me away.

passion for improvisation that led me to New York.

my own music. It’s not a question of confidence or

It touched a deep sensibility within me. The right

I learned bebop and started playing at jazz clubs

a lack of confidence; it’s simply interesting to work

music came to me at the right time and changed

and was meeting so many great musicians from

out my own language,” says Han. “‘Delusion’ on Il-

my whole life.”

whom I could get lessons anytime. I learned about

lusion is by Bud Powell, but I rearranged it so much ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 15


Han was invited to perform at JIJF 2010, and was impressed by the scale of the event and the organization behind it that ensures its smooth running.

I

had to change the title. For now, I want to do

It’s difficult to discern too many obvious influ-

my own music, but playing standards in differ-

ences in Han’s playing, with the exception of the

ent ways is always so much fun. Maybe the

track “Shaolinish,” which has echoes of pianist

next album will be full of standards.” For Illusion,

Brad Mehldau’s lyricism. Han acknowledges her

Han once again turned to bassist Corcoran, who

debt to Mehldau: “I started jazz seriously because

shares the bass duties with Drew Gress, and drum-

of Brad Mehldau’s music and all the stories it tells.

mer Justin Brown. Ralph Alessi contributes strong

It’s obvious that his music affected me for a long

trumpet lines to several tracks. Listening to Illusion

time,” says Han.

the musicians seem to enjoy a lot of freedom

After eight years in New York, Han decided

within the framework of Han’s compositions. Han

the time was right to return to South Korea. “I was

concurs: “What I was aiming for was being myself,

lucky to learn all I did there,” she says of New York.

without doubts. I wanted to have real freedom

“I absorbed everything around me and got clos-

so I invited Drew, who plays with Ralph a lot, and

er to the core of what it means to be an artist.

Justin for the delicate sounds I love to hear. They

Perhaps the most significant thing I learnt was to

are amazing musicians. All I needed to do was

accept differences.”

to enjoy playing without worries. We just trusted

The jazz scene in Korea that Han returned

ourselves and went for it with big energy, I believe.”

to was quite different to that of a decade ago:

It’s certainly a steaming session and much of

“When I left in 2004 there were around 10 jazz

the credit goes to drummer Brown, who brings tre-

clubs in Seoul, but now there are more than 20

mendous energy and inventive drive to the mu-

clubs. There was one college with a jazz program,

sic: “I do love his playing,” affirms Han. “He brought

now there are many colleges running jazz pro-

such delicate sensibility and dynamics into this al-

grams. There weren’t so many jazz musicians a

bum. I had seen him playing in Gerald Clayton’s

decade ago so I was lucky to play club gigs a

trio. We had a duo rehearsal before the recording

lot. However, now many people who have studied

and it turned out great. He is such a beautiful mu-

jazz in the USA or Europe have returned to Korea.

sician. I like playing with dynamic drummers,” Han

So, I see jazz is becoming popular and the jazz

continues, “I think they can draw a much bigger

scene is getting bigger.”

painting. Who does not like dynamic drummers?”

Han, however, bemoans an imbalance in the

Han’s approach to composition and improvi-

type of jazz groups popping up: “There’s little diver-

sation could be described as impressionistic: “I

sity in the music; there are many pianists but not

usually wait until the music comes up and then

enough horn players and this might hold back a

I imagine sounds and color; then I start creating

growing market,” she says. An abundance of pia-

the whole painting. When I improvise I try to re-

nists and piano trios doesn’t appear to have held

member the original sounds I imagined. Mostly

back the growth of the audience for jazz if the-

each tune has very particular color so it’s not easy

Jarasum International Jazz Festival is anything to

to change all the time. For sure, bebop colors my

go by. The 2012 edition was attended by 200,000

playing but I’m focused on creating my own lan-

young Koreans, and it’s an audience that’s both

guage so I can see in and out at the same time.”

passionate and knowledgeable.

16 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ


ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 17


Han was invited to perform at JIJF 2010, and

an album highlight. Han, unsurprisingly, is a fan:

was impressed by the scale of the event and the

“I love his music. He writes beautiful music,” she en-

organization behind it that ensures its smooth run-

thuses. “He’s a very talented young musician. He’s

ning: “I didn’t realize how big this festival had be-

flexible and dynamic and I have great respect for

come because it started the year I moved to New

his vast musical language.” The other track that

York. I was very happy to be performing at home.

Hwei plays on is the album closer “Spontaneous

It was great to know the Jarasum family, especial-

Essay on Nothing,” which, as the name suggests,

ly director J.J. In. The people at Jarasum work so

was a purely improvised piece.

hard and with these kind of people I’m sure jazz will grow a lot more in Korea,” says Han.

Han’s eight composition or improvisations have a distinctly contemporary feel, though stem-

Han’s second CD release of 2012 was the solo

ming from jazz roots: “Green in Blue” has some

piano offering, Ascetic, a technically brilliant and

relation with “Blue in Green,” explains Han. “Also,

emotionally beguiling work.“I’ve practiced solo pi-

“Why is This Thing Called Love” was based on

ano for a while but this recording just happened

“What is This Thing Called Love.” But I didn’t play

without a map,” explains Han. “I am not sure if the

heads on any of these tunes so I can change the

music has been with me or not. It just came out of

titles. It was just improvised music.” Though Han

nowhere. So yes, it was a big leap to the next step

has given classical piano recitals in the past the

of exploring my music.”

approach to Ascetic was something new: “This recording was the first time I’d played solo piano for two hours. It was very challenging and yet not impossible.” It has been a highly rewarding experience for the pianist: “I have some very special memories of making this album,” admits the pianist. “I am not satisfied with my more composed works, but there were some moments that I can’t even remember what was consciously done. I think those moments were totally beautiful.”The experience of improvising and recording Ascetic has seemingly given Han even greater confidence to express herself: “After I recorded Ascetic I decided to play more solo concerts.” Both Illusion and Ascetic are out on Audioguy. The quality of the recordings is excellent, as is the attention to detail in the packaging of the CDs, so it’s little wonder that Han is full of praise for the independent label: “They are very good people. It’s not a big label but it has a good reputation

Though predominantly recorded in Seoul, the

for recording and mixing,” says Han. “The cover

seeds for Ascetic were planted while Han was still

designs look like a bit like ECM but Audioguy uses

in New York: “While recording Illusion, just for fun I

strong, unique color for its work. They believed in

played “Countdown” solo and found some inter-

me on these projects and I really appreciate their

esting ideas. Then I decided to play three more

work and concern.”

solo tunes for Illusion. When I came home in early

After eight years acclimatizing to New York, it’s

2012 I recorded three tunes at a studio and the

little wonder that a certain amount of readjust-

producer asked me if I could just improvise some-

ment was needed on returning to Korea: “Adapt-

thing. So, I kept on playing and it turned out to be

ing myself once more to Korean culture has been

around ten tunes.”

quite stressful,” Han admits, “but it’s getting better

Eight of those tunes born of extended improvi-

now.” With plans to explore and adapt Korean

sations made it onto Ascetic. The other two tracks

traditional music Han will connect on a deeper

Han describes as “bonus tracks,” and feature Ma-

level with her roots in a way she hadn’t before

laysian violinist Fung Chern Hwei.

and the prospect excites her.

Hwei is a member of the Sirius String Quartet

There are a number of solo concerts coming

in New York and Han first came across him whilst

up but beyond that Han is content just to go with

both were studying at Queens College: “He’s a

the flow: “Maybe my plan is not having a plan,”

good friend of mine and we joke all the time” says

she says. “Music always comes to me without

Han. “He plays all kinds of music with so many

planning. I’d say just being myself at any time

great musicians like Uri Caine, Tony Bennett and

would be my plan.”

Bobby McFerrin, Ryuichi Sakamoto and Ivo Perelman, among others. We recorded his first CD From the Heart Produced, and we recorded again.” Hwei’s playing on the self-penned “Ceili” provides 18 2014 FEBRUARY ALL THAT JAZZ


ALL THAT JAZZ FEBRUARY 2014 19

All That Jazz  

A Jazz Magazine