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On April 16, 2014, the ferry Sewol capsized and sank in South Korea killing more than 300 passengers. In Boston that tragedy inspired Berklee College of Music student and Korean native Jihye Lee to put together the powerful music heard on this CD. Lee has assembled a 20-piece ensemble of Boston area musicians to play music from the branch of orchestral jazz that comes out of Gil Evans, Bob Brookmeyer and Maria Schneider, music that ranges from somber to emotional to downright scary.
It starts with the lovely undulating flow of "April Wind" where Lee's wordless voice floats on top of a dense mass of sound that gives way to yearning solos by Alain Mallet on piano and Shannon LeClaire and Allan Chase combined on alto and soprano sax respectively. "Sewel Ho" is more descriptive of the actual tragedy. It has a more dissonant and ominous sound accented by Mark Walker's splashing cymbals and screams of brass that lead into dark, tumbling solos by trumpeter Greg Hopkins and trombonist Jeff Galindo. Eventually the harsh sounds recede into a serene, quiet-after-the-storm passage with various reeds rippling over the rumbling rhythm section.
"Deep Blue Sea" has Mallet's piano and Lee's voice leading the orchestra in a more hopeful and uplifting melody that constantly grows until it resolves into a lustrous tenor solo by Rick DiMuzio. "Whirlwind" is the most conventionally jazzy section. It's an up-tempo piece with the gritty urgency of a Quincy Jones crime movie score, loud brass that leads to surging piano and mellow tenor solos with an undercurrent of swing. "Guility" has drummer Walker hitting crisp martial beats underneath edgy horn dissonance before Bruce Bartlett starts spinning out elegant guitar licks. The final piece, "You Are Here," has guest trumpeter Sean Jones making the last key solo statement, playing warmly over the orchestra's long, waving lines and hushed harmonies.
This is a suite of dense and intricate music that evokes strong feelings about loss and sadness similar to the way Maria Schneider describes nature in her writing or more pertinently the way Terence Blanchard has evoked the horrors of Hurricane Katrina in different works. Jihye Lee has created music so powerful it could get into your emotions even if you did not know specifically about the ferry accident that inspired it.
April Wind; Sewol Ho; Deep Blue Sea; Whirlwind; Guilty; You Are Here (Every Time I Think of You).
Jihye Lee: vocals; Sean Jones: flugelhorn; Elzbieta Brandys: flute; Shannon LeClaire: alto saxophone,
clarinet, flute; Allan Chase: alto saxophone, soprano saxophone; Rick DiMuzio: tenor saxophone,
soprano saxophone; clarinet; Bob Patton: tenor saxophone, clarinet; Ben Whiting: baritone saxophone,
bass clarinet; Bijon Watson: trumpet; Jeff Claasen: trumpet; Rich Given: trumpet; Greg Hopkins:
trumpet; Jeff Galindo: trombone; Rick Stepton: trombone; Artie Montanaro: trombone; Peter Cirelli:
bass trombone; Bruce Bartlett: guitar; Alain Mallet: piano; Jiri Nedoma: piano (2); John Lockwood: bass;
Mark Walker: drums; Ricardo Monzon: percussion.