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Linda May Han Oh: Talent and Dedication

Angelo Leonardi By

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AAJ: Will you continue this partnership?

LMHO: Yes. We'll be touring in the coming months and we have a record that's coming out, which we recorded in December of 2016.

AAJ: What are the most important qualities for a bassist? And for a bassist who leads a group?

LMHO: For any bassist having a solid foundation, a grounded solidity, is essential. As a leader, it depends on the music that you write. In my music some of the melodies are very intricate but for the most part—the improvised sections—there's a lot of freedom and depending on who you're playing with, sometimes that requires you to step out front and really lead where you want things to go. At times, certain things may not go in the direction that you're trying to push for... But this balance between being that solid foundation in the background and then being able to step forward and push things and pull things your way is very important. For me another very important thing is composition. I am trying to make things interesting and it is a balance between open improvisatory sections and intricately composed sections. Like with everything else in life, it's always a matter of balance. And of course... listening is key.

AAJ: You have a special musical partnership with Fabian Almazan. What are the reasons for this long cooperation?

LMHO: Fabian and I went to the Manhattan School together. We have been playing music together ever since. And we just recently got married last January, after nine years of friendship.

AAJ: Oh, wonderful. Congratulations! Which bass players had an impact on the way you play bass?

LMHO: Charles Mingus [without hesitation. Contributor's note], Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Rocco Prestia from Tower of Power, Brick Fleagle from Red Hot Chili Peppers, MeShell NdegeOcello, Dave Holland and many more.

AAJ: Who are the younger bass players you prefer?

LMHO: Larry Grenadier, Scott Colley, even if they are a little bit older than me. And then Ben Williams, Matt Brewer... so many great bassists...

AAJ: Do you consider yourself mainly a composer, a performer or a bandleader?

LMHO: I try not to think about them as separate roles. The more I do each, the stronger I get.

AAJ: In your second album Initial Here you play a beautiful Ellington tune "Come Sunday." Do you like standards?

LMHO: Yes, I do. I am still learning standards and I have been getting back to them lately. Learning the melodies but also really living the lyrics as well, because it makes such a big difference to me and how I interpret those tunes. I have found that's very beautiful. Often people encourage you to learn the lyrics but a lot of times you end up learning standards at jam sessions and you don't really have the chance of getting into the lyrics.

AAJ: Are you working on your second trumpet trio album?

LMHO: Yes, with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Hopefully it will be published next year.

AAJ: What do you do when you're not making music?

LMHO: I do yoga, I am working on my Spanish, I like to read a lot...

AAJ: How is today's Linda May Han Oh different from 10 years ago?

LMHO: I practice a lot and try to get better. As I look back, I think about how I used to play and I am proud of my improvements as a composer and a bassist. I have a long, long way to go, lots of things to improve on, but I am happy when I look back. I am happy where I am, playing with great musicians and I get to write music and travel and play. It's a privilege and I am grateful for that.

Photo credit: Luciano Rossetti

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Catching Up With
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