Exposé Online banner

Jihye Lee — April
((Not on label) no#, 2017, CD)

by Jon Davis, Published 2017-04-14

April Cover art

The last two large-ensemble jazz recordings to cross my desk were Peace by Satoko Fujii’s Orchestra Tokyo and Telepathy & Bop by Josh Green’s Cyborg Orchestra, which presented nearly free, highly unstructured collective improvisation and cleverly composed unconventional textures respectively. Jihye Lee’s Orchestra presents yet another possibility, completely different from those two. In many ways, it’s a much more conventional set that doesn’t venture outside the modern standards of big-band jazz as represented by the work of (for example) Maria Schneider or Toshiko Akiyoshi. The overarching inspiration of April is the disastrous 16 April 2014 sinking of the ferry Sewol in South Korea. Lee was away from her homeland during those events, and the completed suite is her musical reflection on the tragedy, from the scene-setting “April Wind” through the somber “Deep Blue Sea” to the dissonant “Guilty” and finishing with the sweeping melodies of “You Are Here (Every Time I Think of You).” On some of the tunes, Lee herself contributes wordless vocals, bringing to mind the sound of European film music of the 70s. And while the use of the band’s sections in the arrangements doesn’t stray too far from traditions, the music does have a singular touch, wandering far astray from typical head-solos-head structures, and with some lovely counterpoint and many examples of creativity. “Sewol Ho” has a middle section where a trumpet and a trombone improvise together, weaving their lines around each other. Overall, “Whirlwind” is probably my favorite track, starting with a busy, insistent bass line and stabbing trumpet chords, moving into a moody section featuring saxes and flutes, then solos that at times seem a bit too polite to represent such a rending event, though there are some very dissonant chords backing them at times. All in all, April strakes out a nice middle ground between jazz idioms and 20th Century classical features, and is an auspicious debut for a new figure in a difficult genre.


Filed under: New releases, 2017 releases

Related artist(s): Jihye Lee

Latest news

2017-11-16
Celebrate 10 Years of Fruits de Mer – As a special celebration for a decade of cool vinyl releases, our friends at Fruits de Mer records have prepared a limited edition reissue of an album by the first band ever to appear on the label: Schizo Fun Addict. The band is known for unusual release strag » Read more

2017-11-02
Mega Dodo Presents New Charity Album – Our friends at Mega Dodo have put together a lovely compilation of their artists performing new arrangements of nursery rhymes, and all the profits from sales of the album will benefit Save the Children. It features a number of artists we've covered. » Read more

2017-10-18
Phil Miller RIP – Sad word reaches us today of the passing of another of the great musicians of the Canterbury Scene — guitarist Phil Miller. His distinctive sound added greatly to Matching Mole, Hatfield and the North, and National Health, and he also contributed to albums by Caravan, Dave Stewart & Barbara Gaskin, and many others. He was 68. » Read more

2017-10-13
Moonjune to Distribute Tony Levin's Back Catalog – It has been announced that Moonjune will now handle distribution for Tony Levin's catalog of releases. These great albums will now be a bit easier to get hold of, so check out the site and see what you're missing. The veteran of King Crimson and Stick Men worked with a host of great players on these albums, and we've reviewed most of them over the course of the years. » Read more

2017-09-26
Bandcamp Shines Light on Niches We Like – Bandcamp has developed into one of the best places to discover new music, and even a lot of old music is showing up there. In addition, their staff has been producing periodic articles spotlighting some interesting stylistic areas. On 20 September, they published one called "The New Face of Prog Rock" which bears checking out. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Whitechapel - Le Masque d'Arlequin – Yes, it's a French band that sings about a jester. To be honest, it's probably just the title track that's about the jester or harlequin in question, but it also has a jester's face on the cover. With...  (2008) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues