Living in a state of unresolved civil war since 1945, and lately under threat of nuclear annihilation, obviously sharpens the senses, gives the Korean people an edge the rest of us don't have. Recently, Donald Trump took one look and was blown away. He said (or perhaps Tweeted), "These are wonderful, hard-working people."
With the release of this album, comes the time for the jazz world to rise and join the American president in singing the praises of the Korean people andspecificallythose 12 of its members who make up the Jungsu Choi Tiny Orkester. For they areyea verily, folkssomething else.
What a shame it is that Charles Mingus is not still around to welcome them into the fold for it is in his restless spirit that Choi and his Tiny Orkester move and have their being. This is Jungsu Choi himself describing how he works: "In front of an empty sheet, I go on a fishing expedition to find notes that will fill out the blank measure.
"Sometimes it takes more than a week to fill a single measure, which is a difficult and lonely time. Suddenly, I grab a vague idea that seems to float through the air. However, in the majority of cases, this first idea is not the right one and instead is thrown out because it might be a cliché, old fashioned or simply too plain. For me, writing a piece of music is a laborious series of choices and throwing ideas away again and again."
Choi's list of people who inspire and motivate his choices includesas Mingus's too surely would have doneDuke Ellington. One of the highlights of Tschuss Jazz Era (Tschuss means "Goodbye") is a reworking of Billy Strayhorn's "Take The A Train," retitled "What If Ellington Didn't Take The A Train?"
This earnest, bespectacled young man from the Hermit Kingdom also has the nerve to successfully take apart and reassemble Charlie Parker's "Anthropology" and Chick Corea's "Spain." The two remaining numbers, his own "Stolen Yellow" and "Nach Wein," more than hold their own in this exalted company.
An absolutely stunning album.
Stolen Yellow; Anthropology; Nach Wien 224; What If Ellington Didn’t Take the “A” Train?; Spain.