Yuhan Su: Good Vibes
Su sings on two tracks on Flying Alone: "Comfort Zone," a beautiful duet with pianist Li, sung in Mandarin Chinese, and the wordless "If You Stay," where Su combines in delightful harmonies with saxophonist Aguiar. Although Su doesn't yet consider herself to be a singer, she does sing in concert and sees the voice as an important part of her armory. "I don't do improvised singing, but I do really like the way the human voice mixes with instrumental sounds, and I'd like to develop it more. I feel my own voice is part of my personal statement."
Apart from singing, Su also plays malletkat on the record, and as Su explains it has obvious advantages over the vibraphone. "The vibraphone is hard to move around to gigs," she says. "The malletkat is lighter. It's really portable, so I use it to play a lot of gigs. It's is a really great tool. It has built-in midi resources. You can choose to use different sounds or connect with a lot of pedals and experiment a lot."
Flying Alone was partly funded through the Kickstarter Backer program, and, as Su recounts, the support she received was invaluable. "I don't think I could have made this album without Kickstarter because I honestly didn't have any budget. Kickstarter is a very international platform. The artist presents his or her project to the website, and you may get help from people all around the world. You propose your project, and you have to have a decent video to introduce your project. You set a reward for the people who support you. It's fun. For example, if people donate $25, they get an autographed CD. So, through this project, I get to know a lot of music fans and new friends."
The CD came out on saxophonist Greg Osby's Inner Circle Music label, which Su couldn't be happier about. "It was a pleasure to be chosen by Inner Circle Music," she enthuses. "It's more like a musicians' collective. At my stage, having just got out of school, being on the Inner Circle Music label is a big help. I'm really impressed by my label-mates and their dedication. I'm new to the industry, and Greg has been a great help in giving us young musicians suggestions and sharing his experiences."
As for jazz in her native Taiwan, Su is confident that the scene is getting stronger. "The interest is growing," says Su. "There are a lot of musicians who have studied in the United States or in Europe, and now they're back in the country, so the jazz scene is definitely growing up. They are several active jazz clubs in Taiwan, and there are big jazz festivals in Taipei and Taichung every year." Su now lives in New York, and although she's finding her feet there, she feels good about things. "I'm just trying to get to know a lot of great musicians," she says. "Life in New York has strongly stimulated me. I feel my music has been inspired by the city. Also, I'm starting to feel more and more freedom in composingnot thinking about any particular style, just trying to explore more."
As for her immediate plans, Su is concentrating on promoting Flying Alone and harbors ambitions to tour the music in America and in Europe, but the writing in the meantime never stops. "I'm writing some new music," says Su, "so hopefully I can start to work on the new CD." Having made the big move from Taiwan to America in 2008, Su's subsequent move from Boston to New York at the beginning of 2013 must have been easy by comparison. With a stellar CD release under her belt, Osby's progressive record label supporting and mentoring her and an ever-widening group of musicians upon whom she can call, Su is no longer flying solo. She is, however, flying high.
Yuhan Su, Flying Alone (Inner Circle Music, 2013)
All Photos: Courtesy of Yuhan Su