Vibraphonist Yuhan Su's debut album Flying Alone is a collection of ten elegant and sophisticated originals that unfold like poems for multiple voices. Her effective yet subtle leadership of her international band allows the instruments to echo and support each other in haunting choruses and contemplative dialogues.
The futuristic "Difficulties" builds an intriguing atmosphere with the ebb and flow of guitarist Publio Delgado.'s electric swells over drummer Deepak Gopinath's angular, spicy and rollicking beats. Su's own darkly sparkling mallets shimmer as her electrifying improvisation unpredictably changes tempos in response to Gopinath's urgent and clamorous drum set. Delgado's vaguely bluesy and left of center strings engage in a free flowing duet with Gopinath. Su's carefully placed strikes punctuate Delgado's increasingly complex, rock infused, spontaneous melody.
Gopinath and Delgado buoy saxophonist Cecar Joaniquet's modal solo on the cinematic and melancholic "Sputnik Sweetheart," a piece titled after the classic Haruki Murakami novel. Su's cooler, mordant vibes are a perfect match for Joaniquet's ardent tone on this exquisite paean to lost love.
Su's expression grows subtler and more resonant when matched with the two reed frontline on the memorable and nostalgic "Origin." Joaniquet's soprano is peppered with eastern harmonies. The composition also features bassist Jeong Lim Yang's intricate and lyrical pizzicato work.
Su demonstrates her talent as a vocalist on the hypnotic and lush lullaby "Comfort Zone." Sung in Mandarin, her evocative and ethereal voice hovers over pianist Christian Li's deceptively simple nocturne-esque sonata. It is, nevertheless, her superlative ability as a composer and improviser that takes center stage on this engaging and stimulating first album. Her mastery over her instrument is perhaps best heard on the exciting "Drive," a track brimming with the urgency of a Monday morning rush. Su's intelligent and exhilarating extemporization pirouettes into richly hued and mysterious swirls of sound. She hints at the modern western classical canon at times and borrows from her own Asian heritage at others.
This delightful and intellectually satisfying record is the mature work of a young and singular composer and vibraphone virtuoso. It is also, hopefully, the foundation of a brilliant career that will rank with the likes of Walt Dickerson and Bobby Hutcherson.
Flying Alone; There is Something in the Bottom of the Bottle; Drive; Comfort Zone; If You Stay; Necessaries; Difficulties; Sputnik Sweetheart; Origin; Bian Fu.
Yuhan Su: vibraphone, malletkat, vocals (4, 6); Rafael Aguiar: alto saxophone; Cesar Joaniquet: tenor and soprano saxophones; Publio Delgado: guitar; Christian Li: piano; Jeong Lim Yang: acoustic bass; Deepak Gopinath: drums.
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