Although alto saxophonist Pureum Jin would no doubt shrug her shoulders and ask "what's the big deal," the fact remains that she is a South Korean woman playing American jazz and doing so in a way that affirms conclusively that the country's inbred art form is not only universal but gender-neutral. On her debut album, the rather recent graduate of the Manhattan School of Music sounds as assured and comfortable in the idiom as almost any native-born playermale or femaleyou'd care to name.
A part of that certitude must clearly be ascribed to her mentors who include reed masters Donny McCaslin and Steve Wilson. The rest, however, comes from Jin herself, as all the mentoring in the world won't help unless a student has the aptitude and talent to take that guidance and run with it. Jin, still in her twenties, has already developed an impressive voice that can only grow stronger and more eloquent with each passing year. Besides McCaslin and Wilson, Jin has obviously listened closely to other alto superstars including the late Phil Woods, to whom she pays tribute on one of her eight original compositions on The Real Blue.
As Jin's frame of mind is most definitely post-bop, she sought out sidemen whose preferences are the same, and found them in pianist Jeremy Manasia, bassist Luke Sellick and drummer Willie Jones III. Together they form an ardent and cohesive quartet whose talents are always in service to the music. As for that, it ranges from cool ("The Song of Silence," featuring vocalist Sabeth Perez, and "When Blue Gets Blue," the burnished finale on which Jin and Manasia duet) to hot (everything else by Jin plus a pair of standards: Cole Porter's earnest "Night and Day" and Kurt Weill's emphatic "Speak Low"). While the name of the opening number, "Trembling Forward," may suggest that Jin was nervous as she began her first recording as a leader, there's no sign of that in her bright and adventurous solo.
Jin is similarly unflappable throughout, displaying her splendid technique on the burners ("Seminole Trail," the two standards) and her warmer side on "Fireflies" and "Remembering Mr. Woods." Manasia and the others keep pace, with Manasia comping ably and soloing adroitly on several numbers while Sellick and Jones more than hold their own. An impressive debut by a talented young player whose singular aptitude for jazz architecture and format transcends any and all boundaries.
Trembling Forward; Ah-Oh-Owa; The Song of Silence; Night and Day; Remembering Mr. Woods; Fireflies; Night Shift Blues;
Seminole Trail; Speak Low; When Blue Gets Blue.
Pureum Jin: alto saxophone; Jeremy Manasia: piano; Luke Sellick: bass; Willie Jones III: drums; Sabeth Perez: vocals .