7

Annie Chen Octet: Secret Treetop

Jack Bowers By

Sign in to view read count
Annie Chen Octet: Secret Treetop
Over the years, jazz has widened its horizons to encompass a broad range of music that many of those who practiced and/or appreciated the more traditional forms might not recognize, let alone endorse. Among the more recent genres is "world music," which embodies various rhythmic and harmonic elements of jazz without assimilating its core values. On her second album, Secret Treetop, composer/vocalist Annie Chen's octet performs world music and does it well—but it is only narrowly akin to jazz in its more established framework.

Chen, born in Beijing and based in New York City, draws her inspiration from many sources—eastern Europe, Japan, Taiwan, the classical canon, soul, funk, her native China and, to a lesser extent, American jazz. In addition to seven of her wide-ranging compositions, Secret Treetop includes folk songs from Inner Mongolia ("Ao Bao Xiang Hui," or A Date in the Yurt, whatever that means) and Taiwan ("Gan Lan Shu," or Olive Tree). Chen sings these songs in Chinese, the others in English save for the album's lone (almost) instrumental track, Chen's "Mr. Wind-Up Bird, Secret Longing," arranged (as were the others) by guitarist Rafal Sarnecki. It should be noted that Chen has maintained a rather pronounced Chinese accent, making her vocals more than a touch unclear; luckily, the lyrics to each song are provided in the album's booklet. Those sung in Chinese are reproduced in that language.

Even though vocals and ensemble are in the ascendant, the session is not devoid of improvisation, with violinist Tomoko Omura and pianist Glenn Zaleski soloing to good effect on "Orange Tears Lullaby." Enticing ad libs are fashioned elsewhere by Sarnecki, trumpeter David Smith and alto Alex LoRe (who sparkles with Sarnecki on "Mr. Wind-Up Bird"). As to Chen's lyrics, they often conform to a visible Chinese pattern too, as though they'd been written (as indeed they were) by someone whose primary language is not English. Be that as it may, it is Chen's compositions, and not her lyrics, that lend the album its import. And even though it strays rather far from what many observers would consider jazz in the truest sense of the word, Chen does what she does quite well. High marks for that, with the caveat that the credible jazz content in Secret Treetop is minimal at best.

Track Listing

Ozledim Seni; Majo Kiki in 12 Days; Ao Bao Xiang Hui; Secret Treetop; Orange Tears Lullaby; Mr. Wind-Up Bird, Strange Yearning; Leaving Sonnet; Gan Lan Shu; My Ocean Is Blue in White.

Personnel

Annie Chen: composer, lyricist, vocals; Rafal Sarnecki: arranger, guitar; Tomoko Omura: 5-string violin; David Smith: trumpet, flugelhorn (7); Alex LoRe: alto sax, flute (4); Glenn Zaleski: piano; Mathew Munz: bass; Jerad Lippi: drums.

Album information

Title: Secret Treetop | Year Released: 2018 | Record Label: Self Produced

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Earth
Earth
Dave Liebman
Read Urban(e)
Urban(e)
Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra
Read Hiding Place
Hiding Place
Mark Murphy, Folk Artist
Read The Truce
The Truce
Markus Reuter
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read In Igma
In Igma
Pedro Melo Alves
Read Blood Moon
Blood Moon
Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.