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Jeong Lim Yang: Zodiac Suite: Reassured


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Jeong Lim Yang: Zodiac Suite: Reassured
This is bold music. It bursts with freewheeling, chip-on-the-shoulder modernism. It is Korean-born bassist Jeong Lim Yang's take on pianist-composer Mary Lou Williams' Zodiac Suite (Asch Records, 1945). Yang tags her revisitation of the classic piece Zodiac Suite: Reassured. But a revisitation of Williams' original trio rendition—to prime the ears for the experience of hearing this new version—says there was an awful lot of boldness and a big modern lean going on back in the mid-twentieth century.

Williams was born in 1910, making her a bit older than the bebop wave which washed over jazz in the mid-1940s. She played with Duke Ellington's small group, The Washingtonians, and wrote arrangements for the band. She also mentored Thelonious Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker and Bud Powell, and enjoyed a long successful recording and performing career of her own—a pioneer as a successful woman working in a man's world when sexism was the norm. Zodiac Suite is her best and most enduring work.

Jeong Lim Yang approaches this masterpiece sounding as if she has something to prove. The previously-mentioned boldness is there; her muscular bass stands out in the mix (interestingly, so did the bass work of Al Lucas on the 1945 recording), and her bandmates are fearless in their interpretation of Williams' work, as is the leader. Proving something? The bassist does just that, in the company of pianist Santiago Liebson and drummer Gerald Cleaver. The group navigates a pre-bop (boogie woogie, stride) landscape with a no-holds-barred energy, in this blending of jazz and classical modes which was miles ahead of its time in 1945 while remaining compelling and relevant today.

The 12 signs of the Zodiac are all explored, from the driving, full-bore "Pisces" through the deep grooves and airy atmosphere of "Scorpio," to the blues form of "Sagittarius." Liberties are taken with tempos, meter and improvisational elements but, again, going back to the original 1945 trio outing for comparison, Yang's Zodiac Suite: Reassured stands out for its reverence for Williams' vision combined with a feel for risk-taking and palpable confidence.

The bassist-composer and company wrap up the show with her original tune, "Madam, Thank You, Madam." It is a wandering reverie dedicated to Mary Lou Williams. It sounds freely improvised. It may or may not be. No matter. The trio is inspired as they craft this beautiful piece offered in celebration of the work of a genius.

Track Listing

Pisces; Aries; Taurus; Gemini; Cancer; Leo; Virgo; Libra; Scorpio; Sagittarius; Capricorn; Aquarious; Madam, Thank You, Madam.


Jeong Lim Yang: bass, acoustic; Gerald Cleaver: drums; Santiago Liebson: piano.

Album information

Title: Zodiac Suite: Reassured | Year Released: 2022 | Record Label: Fresh Sound Records

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