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Yeahwon Shin: Lua Ya

John Kelman By

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Yeahwon Shin: Lua Ya Korean-born now New York-resident singer Yeahwon Shin leaves the largely Brazilian-informed repertoire of her 2010 ArtistShare debut, Yeahwon, behind for a most worthy return to her roots with Lua Ya, her ECM debut that, released late in the summer of 2013, is still worthy of a look as the new year begins. Featuring, on a few tracks, accordionist Rob Curto, Lua Ya is largely a duo recording with pianist Aaron Parks, whose own ECM leader debut, Arborescence, has already made it onto a number of "best of" lists for 2013. A gently transcendent and calming way to begin the New Year, Lua Ya is dedicated to mothers and children everywhere, its collection of songs and lullabies the perfect salve for these rapid-paced and troubled times. Experiencing Lua Ya is like finding a quiet, pastoral retreat, only in this case it's a place that can be found anywhere, anytime.

The genesis of the recording is worth hearing. Visiting Mechanics Hall, near Boston in November, 2011, where Parks was in the process of recording Arborescence, the pianist and singer found an instant connection, the room's intimate acoustics encouraging Shin to consider a duo recording that, while predicated on melodies from her childhood, would become instant grist for improvisational interaction with Parks. What is, indeed, most remarkable about Lua Ya is how Shin and Parks seamlessly integrate; sometimes adhering tightly to the melodies at the source of their music, but elsewhere taking leaps sometimes subtle, sometimes dramatic, into unexpected terrain.

This is not a recital of prearranged music; clocking in at a mere 41 minutes, this is a relatively brief but thoroughly compelling collection of thirteen songs that continue to surprise, even after several encounters. "The Moonwatcher And The Child" may begin as a seemingly straightforward minor-keyed waltz, with Curto's accordion creating both a supporting pulse and contrapuntal melody against which Shin's humble, straightforward delivery is delicately balanced. Parks gradually interlocks with Shin and Curto—at times assuming the pulse but elsewhere dropping delicately cascading phrases that dissolve, leaving the sound of Curto's fingers being scraped along the keys but, without using the squeezebox, acting as percussive texture rather than anything melodic, harmonic or rhythmic.

That these songs represent an innocence so often lost is what makes Lua Ya such a captivating experience. While suitable for any time of day, there's something about its in-the-moment attempts to recapture that very innocence that makes it music best played late at night; even when Parks or Curto move briefly into more oblique territory, the healing balm of Shin's voice always manages to return the music to a more mellifluous space.

Never resorting to saccharine sentimentality Lua Ya asserts itself in the quietest, most selfless way possible; there's not a wasted note to be found. Instead, Lua Ya's spacious, pristine charm is something not to be heard but, rather, to be felt. A recording that might easily be overlooked, that would be a mistake; as profound in its innocence as it is deep in its evocation of faint memories past, Lua Ya needs only to be heard once to capture the heart, the mind and the soul.

Track Listing: Lullaby; Moving Clouds; Island Child; Mysteries; The Moonwatcher And The Child; The Orchard Road; Remembrance; Beads of Rain; A Morning Song; Travel Blue; Beads of Rain, var.; The Orchard Road, var.; Sunrise.

Personnel: Yeahwon Shin: voice; Aaron Parks: piano; Rob Curto: accordion.

Year Released: 2014 | Record Label: ECM Records | Style: Modern Jazz


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