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

2020-07-22
Tim Smith RIP – Tim Smith, leader of the eccentric band Cardiacs, has died at the age of 59 after many years of health problems. Cardiacs was known for intense and complicated music that combined punk energy with the rhythmic and harmonic sophistication of progressive rock. » Read more

2020-07-12
Judy Dyble RIP – Singer-songwriter Judy Dyble, who was a founding member of Fairport Convention and one of the distinctive voices of the 60s folk revival in Britain, has died at the age of 71. Her passing came at the end of a long illness, though which she continued to work. » Read more

2020-07-06
Ennio Morricone RIP – Famed composer Ennio Morricone has died at the age of 91. The creator of scores for more than 500 movies, some of his works have become the most recognizable sounds in the history of cinema. His soundtracks for Sergio Leone's Westerns made from 1964 to 1971, are iconic landmarks in film music, but he also composed for dramas, comedies, and other genres. He won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2016 for The Hateful Eight. » Read more

2020-06-14
Keith Tippett RIP – One of the giants of British jazz has left us. Keith Graham Tippetts, known professionally as Keith Tippett, died today at the age of 72. His work from the late 60s into the 70s and beyond includes some of the greatest jazz produced in the UK, and stands as an impressive oevre to this day. » Read more

2020-05-15
Phil May of The Pretty Things RIP – We were saddened to learn that Phil May, lead singer and founding member of The Pretty Things, has died at the age of 75. The band's 1968 album S.F. Sorrow is one of the enduring classics of the psychedelic era, and the group existed in various forms until finally retiring in 2018. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Jorge Reyes - Ek-Tunkul – I must have been sleeping at Best-of-'97 voting time as this old favorite managed to slip right out from under my nose. Ek-Tunkul was Jorge Reyes' very first (and best) solo recording from...  (1999) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues