8

KyungGu Lee: New Song

Dan Bilawsky By

Sign in to view read count
KyungGu Lee: New Song Jazz is all about artistic growth and an individual's willingness to move outside of his/her comfort zone to make it happen. Tenor saxophonist KyungGu Lee has firsthand knowledge of this fact; the Korean-born Lee had settled into a comfortable musical life in his native land, playing the clubs, teaching, and working the theater and television sides of the music business, but realized that he needed to push beyond what he already knew in order grow. So, he packed up his things and moved to New York in 2006. Studies at the New School For Jazz And Contemporary Music and SUNY Purchase put him in contact with saxophonists Donny McCaslin, Rich Perry, Mark Turner and Steve Wilson, as well as other renowned jazz performer-educators like trumpeter Jon Faddis and bassist Todd Coolman, who opened him up to the possibilities inherent within himself. Now, with the release of his debut album, his well-rounded viewpoint is on record for all to hear.

Lee is a modernist who doesn't go too far afoot from latter-day conventions; he makes music for himself and his musicians, but understands that an audience is needed in order to complete the cycle of creation and dissemination. His band mates are all higher profile players who happen to fall in line with this line of thinking. Johannes Weidenmuller's round bass sound fills in the bottom end of spectrum, and drummer Adam Cruz provides crisp direction, whether laying down a steady groove, nailing the hits or simply sprinkling cymbals over the band. Pianist Kevin Hays proves to be the most valuable player here, creating flowing undercurrents, conversational lines, and authoritative and compelling solos.

Lee proves himself a lyrical player, but doesn't fall into the sentimentality trap that snares so many players, as "The Princess" and "New Song" make clear. As a composer, he proves to be a fan of the middle ground, without resorting to extremes in any direction. One minute he might be taking liberties with his own rewrite of an oft-covered standard ("All The Things") and the next minute moving between an odd-metered groove and some straight- four backing ("The Rose"), but he's always in control.

Lulled into a comfort zone with the first four songs, the clear direction that Lee establishes is abandoned with the wonderfully sensuous, tango-influenced "Intuition," the album's standout track. While swing feels aren't a big part of Lee's vision here, he ends the album with a mid-tempo swinger that also proves to be one of its strongest entries ("Mr. W"). Both Lee and guest saxophonist Steve Wilson, who appears on three of the album's seven tracks, shine—both as individuals and in back-and-forth trade-offs.

KyungGu Lee has found his voice on New Song; now he just needs to keep on growing. This is an excellent debut record from an up-and-comer willing to push beyond his comfort limits.


Track Listing: All The Things; The Rose; The Princess; New Song; Intuition; Visitors; Mr. W.

Personnel: KyungGu Lee: tenor saxophone; Steve Wilson: alto saxophone (1, 2, 7); Kevin Hays: piano; Johannes Weidenmuller: bass; Adam Cruz: drums.

Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Self Produced | Style: Contemporary/Smooth


Shop

More Articles

Read Transparent Water CD/LP/Track Review Transparent Water
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Billows Of Blue CD/LP/Track Review Billows Of Blue
by Dan McClenaghan
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Love Dance CD/LP/Track Review Love Dance
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 20, 2017
Read Honest Woman CD/LP/Track Review Honest Woman
by James Nadal
Published: February 20, 2017
Read June CD/LP/Track Review June
by Karl Ackermann
Published: February 19, 2017
Read The Final Concert CD/LP/Track Review The Final Concert
by John Sharpe
Published: February 19, 2017
Read "Flow" CD/LP/Track Review Flow
by Karl Ackermann
Published: August 2, 2016
Read "I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping And Dreaming" CD/LP/Track Review I Go Back Home: A Story About Hoping And Dreaming
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: September 21, 2016
Read "Subterranea" CD/LP/Track Review Subterranea
by Roger Farbey
Published: October 28, 2016
Read "Persuasion" CD/LP/Track Review Persuasion
by Jeff Winbush
Published: December 24, 2016
Read "Morning Glory" CD/LP/Track Review Morning Glory
by Roger Farbey
Published: June 8, 2016
Read "Right to Love" CD/LP/Track Review Right to Love
by Jim Olin
Published: June 19, 2016

Post a comment

comments powered by Disqus

Sponsor: ECM Records | BUY NOW  

Support our sponsor

Support All About Jazz's Future

We need your help and we have a deal. Contribute $20 and we'll hide the six Google ads that appear on every page for a full year!

Buy it!