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Janya: Janya

Dan Bilawsky By

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Janya's sound is all about Korean-influenced music for the free jazz-loving soul. The members of this female foursome are all of Korean descent, and bring a free yet flowing sensibility to this seven-song program of original music.

While the presence of instruments like gayageum, daegeum and janggo—a zither-like string instrument, bamboo transverse flute, and hour-glass shaped drum, respectively— give this group a decidedly Eastern sound veering toward the mystical and mysterious, Lola Danza's vocals bring diversity and, on occasion, other-worldly sounds into the picture . She provides vocal support behind Seungmin Cha's Korean poetry recitation, takes control in English-language lieder territory ("Epilogue"), and also provides heavy, breathy sounds and shrill cries that are chilling and eerie, at times. "Generations" even finds Danza dancing atop the Eastern-leaning mix with some pseudo-Calypso scatting, and she doesn't stop there. Her unique amalgam of all-things-artistic brings her into what sounds like free-associative, beatnik poetry-singing, painted over a musical mixture that's heavy on Asian spirituality ("Mother"). She often shifts the balance of these pieces mood-wise from meditative to intense with her dramatic vocalizations, but she is merely one piece of the puzzle.

The instrumental side of this music is built on rhythmic uncertainty and the element of surprise. Some pieces benefit from constantly interweaving spots of sound ("Epic-Sinawi"), while others are shaped with a freer concept that relies on space ("Epilogue"). Small, gong-like clangs ("Epilogue"), and trashy, garbage can lid-like sounds ("Withered") provide some variety on the bottom end, but semi-steady drum patterns manage to surface every now and then ("Generations"). The "loose," in the loose-steady duality of this music, usually winds up winning, but all four women communicate well enough to keep these pieces from moving too far adrift.

The music of Janya, with its Korean-influenced avant-garde aura, isn't really jazz, but it connects to the jazz spirit, through the idea of creation via improvisation and musical dialogue.

Track Listing: Epilogue; No Escape; Withered; Generations; Mother; Epic- Sinawi; Janya.

Personnel: Lola Danza: voice; Eunsun Jung: gayageum (traditional Korean string instrument); Woonjung Sim: janggo (hour-glass shaped drum), percussion; Seungmin Cha: daegeum (transverse bamboo flute).

Title: Janya | Year Released: 2011 | Record Label: Evolver


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