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World Jazz Quintet: Live At QPAC Theatre

Troy Dostert By

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World Jazz Quintet: Live At QPAC Theatre
Although all the members of the World Jazz Quintet are New York-based, the group's name does evoke the global palette of its music. Led by pianist Francis Hon—who, on his trio outing Before Dawn (2018), worked within pop and classical idioms in addition to conventional jazz—the World Jazz Quintet incorporates traditional Asian folk musics and a good dose of funk-based fusion in achieving its synthesis of musical touchstones.

The seven cuts on Live at QPAC Theatre are well-paced, characterized by strong rhythmic energy and skillfully-crafted melodies. If Hon's Before Dawn tended to stick to a mainstream piano trio sound, this ensemble is considerably more groove-heavy, helped in no small degree by bassist Jeong Hwan Park's use of electric bass and drummer Daisuke Konnos predilection for staying in a funk/R&B mode. Thus, even a piece like "Spring Breeze," written by Taiwanese folk composer Yu-Hsien Deng, possesses a contemporary-jazz sheen, accentuated by alto saxophonist Scott Litroff 's silky-smooth delivery. While Litroff is certainly able to dig in on more challenging fare—his engaging solo on the album's opener, guitarist David Ullmann's "Astor Place," being a fine example—overall, he is more inclined to play it safe, and Joe Sample's "Soul Shadows" offers the light, easygoing material that Litroff can really sink his teeth into.

Some listeners might prefer their jazz with a bit more edge, but there is no denying the group's appealing melodic sensibilities. Park's "Ultimo fin de Semana" is a lovely ballad, with impassioned solos from Litroff and Ullmann; and "One's Way Back" offers another memorable tune, with Ullmann's bluesy solo adding some grit to the proceedings, and Hon's own solo turn proving both lyrical and rhythmically dynamic. But, without a doubt, the most invigorating cut is the closer, Randy Weston's "Little Niles," where the group buckles up for a satisfying excursion into straight-ahead jazz territory. Litroff takes off convincingly, even bringing a bit of growl to his sound, and Hon takes the opportunity to showcase his formidable chops in a wide-ranging solo. A nice finish to a rewarding album.

Track Listing

Astor Place; Spring Breeze 望春風; Soul Shadows; Ultimo fin de Samana; One's Way Back 귀로; Memory Games; Little Niles

Personnel

Francis Hon: piano; David Ullmann: guitar; Daisuke Konno: drums; Jeong Hwan Park: bass; Scott Litroff : saxophone, alto.

Recorded live at Queensborough Performing Arts Center Theatre. Bayside, New York, Oct. 18th, 2017. Recorded by Robert Anderson; Mixed and Edited by Michael Kim; Design by Francis Hon. © 2017 Francis Hon Music. All Rights Reserved.

Album information

Title: Live At QPAC Theatre | Year Released: 2020 | Record Label: Francis Hon Music

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