Seung-Hee: Waiting (2009)
With a voice that is a lovely as a songbird coupled with exquisiteness, singer Seung-Hee's Waiting is a refreshing jazz vocal debut. Born in Seoul, South Korea, the composer/singer lives and performs in New York City, where her craft is a product of her academic studies in Seoul and Berklee College of Music in Boston, and varied artistic experiences.
The set is informed of both classical music and jazz improvisation, with Seung-Hee presenting five originals, two written by band member/saxophonist Stephan Kammerer and three covers. These elements come together exceptionally well as on the title track, where the singer's voice is a finely tuned instrument, singing a stunning wordless melody followed by verses in Korean, as her quintet performs sumptuous music.
It's the arrangement of Irving Berlin's "How Deep is the Ocean" that further proves this band. The unwavering classic lifts with an emphatic voice/sax harmony, then soars higher with Pete Rende's classical pianism and the stalwart rhythm front of bassist Kevin Thomas and drummer Ronen Itzik; a rousing blend of chamber and swing.
"No One" dances with ease from bop to ballad, then back again, with Seung-Hee scatting like Ella Fitzgerald whereas the sublime version of Stevie Wonder's "Blame It On The Sun" is an unique escape; Thomas' powerful arco provides the perfect accompaniment to Seung-Hee's diamond atonal lyricism which exudes emotion. More escapades include the romantic "So In Love," which employ Rende's gossamer pump organ in a poignant song that might suggest traveling on the French Riviera.
If the grooviest joint is "The Unknown" with Itzik's awe-inspiring traps, sweet sax work, and the songstress in her native tongue, then the prettiest is "Afternoon" because of its gentle flow and a very lovely piano spot. Seung-Hee's voice is the center, in delicate control, never overshadowing and completely unselfish, in the caliber of singers such as Julie Hardy and Cassandra Wilson.
This is a rewarding release from a promising new voice that deserves recognition.
Track Listing: Waiting; How Deep Is the Ocean; Snow Day; No One; Blame It On the Sun; So in Love; The Unknown; Afternoon; Fly Away; The Place We All Start.
Personnel: Seunh-Hee: vocals; Stephan Kammerer: saxophone; Kevin Thomas: bass; Ronen Itzik: drums. Pete Rende: piano, pump organ.
Record Label: Self Produced