John Chin: Blackout Conception (2008)
Pianist John Chin's debut, Blackout Conception, demonstrates his affinity to highly melodic, song-like compositions. The 32 year-old Chin was born in Seoul, South Korea but grew up in Los Angeles, where he began to study classical piano. Chen graduated from California State University when he was 19, with a BA in music, attended the University of North Texas and than relocated to the American east coast to study with his mentor, veteran pianist Kenny Barron, at Rutgers University in New Jersey. Now residing in Brooklyn, Chin's music is not as dense and versatile as his life so far but, very much like Barron, Chin is a leader who knows how to work an infectious melody with elegance, charm and authority.
Chin's opening title track, written after the 2003 east coast blackout, relates to the camaraderie that Chin felt in the streets at that dusky time. Chin brings this rapport to this flowing melody-based composition, leaving enough room for his musical partners to express themselves throughout, with economical solos by saxophonist Mark Turner and bassist Alexis Cuadrado. Chin's melancholic slow ballad, "I Won't Argue With You," shows his thoughtful way of developing an almost minimalist melody, till it gains more resonance and power. His meditative ballad, "After Crash," follows, retaining the same feeling but adding a more intuitive and inquisitive interplay between all players, including Turner.
Chin covers two compositions by Barron, the Brazilian-tinged "Joanne Julia," inspired by listening to Brazilian singer and guitarist Caetano Veloso's many recordings, and the soft and beautiful "Lullaby." Chin's touch and articulation is relaxed and in constant flux, and his interplay with Turner on both compositions is gentle and inspiring. His interpretation of Leonard Bernstein's "Some Other Time" shows Chin's assured and elegant articulation of the melody while playing with the beat. He concludes this promising recording with Billy Strayhorn's beautiful standard, "Passion Flower," taught to him by Barron. Chin just lets this timeless, bitter-sweet melody carry him and his quartet.
Track Listing: Blackout Conception; Joanne Julia; I Won't Argue With You; After Crash; Some Other Time; Lullaby; Passion Flower.
Personnel: John Chin: piano; Bill Campbell: drums; Mark Turner: Tenor sax (1, 2, 4, 6); Alexis Cuadrado: bass (1, 3, 4, 6, 7); Chris Higgins: bass (2, 5).