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Jordan VanHemert: Nomad

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Jordan VanHemert: Nomad
Although his name offers no clue, saxophonist Jordan VanHemert's heritage is Korean. He salutes that legacy on Nomad, his second album as leader, with a pair of Korean folk songs and half a dozen comparatively modern themes written by Koreans or Korean Americans. Most are performed by VanHemert's trio: (Rodney Whitaker, bass; David Alvarez III, drums). Pianist Lisa Sung, guitarist Nathan Borton, bassist John Webber, drummer Max Colley III and vocalist Sharon Cho join VanHemert on the children's song "Half Moon," while Sung, Cho and drummer Jeff Shoup make it a quintet on "Arirang Alone," VanHemert and Whitaker a duo on NanPa Hong's traditional "Spring in My Hometown."

"Half Moon" and "Arirang Alone" are also performed instrumentally by the trio, as are the opening "Bird, Bird, Bluebird," "Imjin River Song" and "Doraji Taryeong (White Mountain Flower)." The songs are melodically strong and pleasing, the musicians adept and purposeful. What is lacking, in spite of their best efforts, is an over-all impression that this is essentially jazz, and not for the most part an homage to themes from another bloodline. Yes, there is an evident jazz veneer, and Whitaker and Alvarez are rhythmically astute, but at its heart the session seems designed to wedge jazz into a folk format, not the other way around. Within those confines, VanHemert's trio plays about as well as could be desired, and it's clear that VanHemert is wholly conversant with the American jazz tradition. When given free rein, as he is on "Spring in My Hometown" or the closing "Half Moon," he swings surely and easily in the manner of Sonny Rollins or early John Coltrane.

Even here, however, the music is even-tempered and more candid than cerebral. In other words, more folk than jazz. For what it is, the album is splendidly performed and easily recommended. Prospective listeners should be aware, however, that this is jazz with a distinct Korean accent, shaped and nourished by VanHemert's love for the land of his forebears. Some may find that altogether agreeable and charming.

Track Listing

Bird, Bird, Bluebird; Imjin River Song; Half Moon (Vocal); Doraji Taryeong (White Mountain Flower); Arirang Alone (Instrumental); Spring in My Hometown; Arirang Alone (Vocal); Half Moon (Instrumental).

Personnel

Additional Instrumentation

Sharon Cho: vocals; Lisa Sung: piano; Nathan Borton: guitar; John Webber: bass; Max Colley III: drums; Jeff Shoup: drums.

Album information

Title: Nomad | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Origin Records


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