Linda Oh arrived onto the jazz scene as a fully accomplished improviser with her introspective and free-flowing debut, Entry (Self Produced, 2010). On the follow-up, Initial Here(Greenleaf, 2012), she expanded her range, drawing upon both the western classical repertoire and eastern folk tradition, as well as experimenting with electric fusion-informed sounds. Oh’s understated yet highly sophisticated style is the phenomenal bassist’s singular mark that characterizes these records, as well as her third release as a leader on Sun Pictures.
Comprising entirely of Oh originals, Sun Pictures is an album of achingly fragile beauty and warm mellifluousness. The enthralling “Shutterspeed Dreams” opens the disc with guitarist James Muller’s undulating notes. Together with Oh’s subtly percussive strings and drummer Ted Poor’s rumbling beats, the ensemble creates a nostalgic and mesmerizing ambiance.
Within this intensely atmospheric framework the music evolves with stimulating intricacy. On “Polyphonic HMI,” saxophonist Ben Wendel’s passionate, vibrato-filled tenor flows effortlessly out of the main theme. His delightfully meandering and elegiac solo fades back into the melody with equal facility. His band mates’ supportive rhythmic structures embellish and enhance the tune’s cinematic feel.
A dramatic yet intimate feel permeates tracks like “Blue Over Gold,” which opens with a hypnotic dancing refrain and features Oh’s sublime pizzicato and dark and heady improvisation. Muller’s electrifying, muscular guitar has both a soulful swagger and elegant complexity, while Poor’s restlessly driving drums bring a rock sensibility to this exquisitely constructed piece.
This intriguing spontaneous creativity is not limited to the individual musicians, but is deftly woven around the compositions by compelling exchanges and group play. Shimmering and cascading tones of the guitar and sax duet characterize the laidback ballad, “Terminal 3.” Poor’s sparse thuds and cymbals, together with Muller’s carefully scattered strums enhance the hypnotic aura that envelopes Oh’s agile bass lines. Against this faintly mystical background her elaborate instrumentation unfolds with keen lyricism and ardent poetry.
Sun Pictures is Oh’s most accomplished work to date. These beguiling pastel-colored sonic images form a single, thematically unified, multilayered and absorbing opus. The seamless blend of the extemporized and the pre-written, the captivating harmonies and the high caliber musicianship make for an enticing listening experience.
Personnel: Linda Oh: bass; Ben Wendel: saxophone; James Muller: guitar; Ted Poor:drums.
[Bio written by Hrayr Attarian on allaboutjazz.com]