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Jo-Yu Chen: Incomplete Soul

James Nadal By

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Where most musicians today release a record as a statement that they have arrived, Jo-Yu Chen's recording Incomplete Soul characterizes the ongoing journey of musical exploration which the pianist began with Obsession (Sony, 2010). Opening with the erhu (two-stringed Chinese violin) opening to "The Wandering Songstress," the record is a musical metaphor of Chen herself. In honor of her Taiwanese heritage, she chose this song and two others—"Chess" and "Red Bean"- to display her Asian cultural roots, while masterfully blending in a Western jazz influence. Classically trained as an oboist and then pianist, Chen plays with a spatial imagery strongly based on what is left out.

The other compositions are originals, and seem to invoke a sense of emotional or physical travel and motion. Chen composes with an innovative flair for setting up visual concepts, and is comfortable in her responsibility. From the title track to "Black Forest" and "Departure," to what she calls her rock number, "Follow Me," the music flows brilliantly, with exuberance and grace.

Rites of passage would not be complete without ballads pulling on the heartstrings, so Chen delivers a "Love Letter," and then portrays herself as a "Dreamer." She allows her lighthearted side to come out with "Tipsy Cat" before unleashing her rebellious nature in three short improvisations simply called "Improv 1, 2 and 3," as if to show she can stretch out or blow off steam. Bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Tommy Crane understand her musically, and are faultless accompanists for her style of composition, with its light touch and approach.

Incomplete Soul is an ideal example of the expression of original nature. Chen may be influenced by the music of the world around her—particularly her immersion into jazz—but it is her personal individuality which defines her as a consummate musician. The journey continues.

Track Listing: The Wandering Songstress; Chess; Incomplete Soul; Improv 1; Black Forest; Love Letter; Tipsy Cat; Departure; Improv 2; Dreamer; Follow Me; Omprov 3; Red Bean.

Personnel: Jo- Yu Chen: piano; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tommy Crane: drums; Andy Lin: erhu(1).

Title: Incomplete Soul | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Sony Music


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