Tschuss Jazz Era
Jungsu Choi has brought together a contemporary jazz ensemble with twelve of Korea's finest jazz musicians including: Jinho Pyo (voice), Eunmi Kim (flute), Yusun Nam (alto saxophone), Hachul Song (tenor saxophone), Yejung Kim (trumpet), and Junyeon Lee (trombone) to perform his compositions and his arrangements of jazz standards. This ensemble has an unusual instrumentation of five horns, cello, male voice, a four-piece rhythm section. This is the group's first European and North American release.
Jungsu Choi's compositional and arranging skills are readily evident on the opening "Stolen Yellow" with its tempo shifts as well as employment of Pyo's scatting as another horn voice, along with the fusion guitar styled solo by Sungyun Hong, a fiery trumpet solo by Kim and Nam's free-sounding alto sax with interesting mix of horns to help frame the solos. Choi's arrangement of Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" similarly displays his imagination in the reconstruction of the Parker melody with the horns playing short unison phrases and pianist Lee taking an Monk-influenced approach in his solo. Bae's tenor sax solo is outstanding and then there is an interlude where Bae and flautist Kim playing off each other unaccompanied, before the band joins in on the repeated phrase they state. Even those who have heard countless version of this tune will be impressed by this inspired and very original performance.
"What If Ellington Didn't Take The 'A' Train?" similarly reworks the Billy Strayhorn in a manner that again displays the originality and invention of Choi and the superb playing by the Orkester. There is also another inspired original, "Nach Wien 224," and an inspired interpretation of Chick Corea's "Spain," with Pyo's hornlike scatting to the fore. Jungsu Choi Tiny Orkester is a terrific large ensemble and with Choi's creative leadership, compositional and arranging skills has produced this exceptional recording.
I received my review copy from a publicist. This review appeared originally in the July-August 2018 Jazz & Blues Report (Issue 379), although I made minor stylistic edits to that review. Here is a live performance of "What If Ellington Didn't Take The 'A' Train?"