HYESEON HONG JAZZ ORCHESTRA / EE-YA-GI
May 19, 2017
All About Jazz by Jack Bowers
June 12, 2017
Midwest Record by Chris Spector
“Mixing a lot of things deftly without feeling like anything is borrowed, this is someone who can say she leads a jazz orchestra proudly. Solid stuff throughout.”
HYESEON HONG/Ee-ya-gi: A Korean composer/arranger that learned her Carla Bley lessons well adds her New York stay to her style and comes in with a solid, left leaning jazz date that’s quite encompassing in scope and has some stellar guests along for the ride rounding out the sound. Mixing a lot of things deftly without feeling like anything is borrowed, this is someone who can say she leads a jazz orchestra proudly. Solid stuff throughout.
June 14, 2017
Improvijazzation Nation by Dick Metcalf
“From the standpoint of Korean music integrated seamlessly with great jazz, my personal favorite of the seven tunes offered up is the light and airy opener, “Harvest Dance“… one of the strongest full-blown orchestral jazz pieces I’ve heard (yet) in 2017. I give HyeSeon and her playmates a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED for this superb album…”
June 22, 2017
Amazon by Grady Harp
“The best from East and West in a combination wholly unique – beautiful, musical, superb ensemble work”
June 24, 2017
The Art Music Lounge by Lynn Rene Bayley
“…a fine album… Recommended for Hong’s nice tune construction, the ensemble playing and the outstanding solos!”
June 27, 2017
Jazz Trail by Felipe Freitas
“Exhibiting an insatiable appetite for jazz-fusion, Ms. Hong proves to be a talented orchestrator and musical thinker who is not afraid to risk while crossing genre boundaries.”
June 27, 2017
The Aquarian Weekly / Rant ‘N’ Roll by Mike Greenblatt
“It’s a delightful debut, filled with swing, classical flourishes, post-bop and, most enticingly of all, traditional Korean folk melodies.”
“Ee-Ya-Gi (Mama Records) by the Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra is a flower in early spring yearning to bloom. Hong is from Seoul, South Korea, but has been living and working in New York City for the last 15 years, gathering up the musicians who inhabit her 18-piece orchestra. It’s a delightful debut, filled with swing, classical flourishes, postbop and, most enticingly of all, traditional Korean folk melodies, especially the instantly-likeable 7:14 opener “Harvest Dance.” Outstanding solos from two guests— saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen—add drama, as does a native Korean “Chang” vocal by Subin Park on “Boat Song,” which approximates the rolling waves of the ocean. Hong even uses a Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale as the basis of “Disappearing Into Foam” about a weeping mermaid wherein a gorgeous piano cadenza by Broc Hempel is helped by a sweeping orchestral arrangement by Hong who wrote all seven elongated compositions.” (PDF available)
June 27, 2017
Jazz Music Archives by John Sanders
“…an infinitely interesting orchestral extravaganza.”
“Modern big band enthusiasts take note, “EE-YA-GI” is complex and challenging, but also fun and buoyant too… Let’s hope there will be many more albums from Hyeseon Hong in the near future.”
June 30, 2017
UK Vibe by Mike Gates
“She successfully mixes elements of classical music, modern big band jazz and traditional Korean music to create a compelling and rich tapestry of sound.”
“Engagingly expansive and original…”
“An enticingly colourful and energetic debut.”
“Hyeseon Hong is a native of Seoul, South Korea. A Jazz arranger and composer, she has been living in New York now for several years, and “EE-YA-GI” is her debut album. Blending Korean and Western cultures, together with her Jazz orchestra she successfully mixes elements of classical music, modern big band jazz and traditional Korean music to create a compelling and rich tapestry of sound.
This project grew from a jazz orchestra rehearsal that Hong leads. The orchestra meets regularly and has grown steadily over the years. The album features an 18 piece orchestra comprising some of the finest musicians in New York. As an admirer of Maria Schneider’s music, Hong was thrilled to have two of Schneider’s leading performers join her for this recording. Acclaimed musicians, saxophonist Rich Perry and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen are featured performers throughout the session.
“EE-YA-GI” means “stories” in Korean, and each of the seven compositions are self-contained stories. Although many of the tunes are inspired by traditional Korean stories, the resulting music is perhaps surprisingly American-sounding. There are natural elements of cross-cultural themes within the music itself, but overall one might think Hung is more of a native New Yorker than a native Korean. That said, one can’t fault the skill and depth of the whole project, with very strong compositions at times exuding beauty, elegance and no shortage of excitement.
This engagingly expansive and original album begins with “Harvest Dance: Story of Thanksgiving”, a piece inspired by a traditional Korean rhythm played by farmers who performed it to stimulate the flow of heavenly and terrestrial energies in hopes of a good harvest. One of the strengths of the recording is the quality of the soloing. Always in keeping with the melodic mood of the music, the performances are extremely strong from all involved. “Friends or lovers: story of youth battling with love” is a swing tune that captures well the energy and complexities of youthful love. There’s a distinctive Latin flavour to “Para Mi Amigo Distante: Story of long lost friends”, whilst “Boat Song: Story of my heritage” is a richly rewarding tune that plays on lovely melodic folk traditions. “Disappearing in Foam: Story of girlhood” is based on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, and “Trash Digging Queen: Story of Nica the dog”, is one of my favourite tracks on the album, being enjoyably playful and very inventive. “Love Story: Story of first love” is warm and graceful and makes for a soft, thoughtful end to the album.
Whilst Hong’s writing is solidly based on the big band swing tradition, she manages to create a modern twist here, and this is an enticingly colourful and energetic debut.”
July 5, 2017
Musikansich by Wolfgang Giese
“Outstanding production… within the genre of big band music, yet the combination of Western and Asian tradition is successful.”
“Hyeseon Hong is from Seoul, South Korea. The composer and bandleader has been working in the United States as well as in Asia for the past fifteen years. With EE-YA-GI (Stories) she presents us an eighteen-piece jazz orchestra, including two exclusive guests, Rich Perry on tenor saxophone and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. Jensen plays on the ## 1, 6, 7 and Perry on the ## 4,6.
South Korea and jazz and big band? Well, for the space of Asia, I would spontaneously call the colleague Toshiko Akiyoshi from Japan, a great composer, bandleader and musician, who often showed a successful combination of Asian and American jazz traditions on their numerous records.
And now Korea and jazz are linked. This is not always the case, but with the “Harvest Dance” it is presented convincingly. This is an inspiration from Korea, from the field of agriculture and corresponding national music. “Friends or Lovers”, however, aims in a different direction, here it is rather in the seventies and the area of the fusion. Matt Vashlishan brings a solo with the EWI, an electronic wind instrument, and the guitarist can wear some rock in the swing with a heavily tied solo. “Para Mi Amigo Distante” is devoted to close friends in Latin America, hovering lightly and airily, subtly supported by EJ Park’s untrammeled vocals, which is woven into the melody.
Very Korean, with a corresponding short vocal introduction, the “Boat Song” progresses gracefully, slightly mysteriously and with a beautiful arrangement. Meditating, this song has a beguiling character. This outstanding production is ended with the “Love Song”, about the memories that are associated with the first love, and this theme has also been implemented emotionally. In short, music has emerged, which occupies a special position within the genre of big band music, yet the combination of Western and Asian tradition has been successful.”
July 6, 2017
Musical Memoirs by Dee Dee McNeil
“The artist previews her composition skills, as well as her arrangements of self-expression and beauty during this Hyeseon Hong production… It weaves various cultures and styles together into a cohesive world musical exploration.”
“Hyeseon Hong (pronounced hay-son-hong) migrated to New York City from Seoul, Korea pursuing an extended education in music education. From the ages of twelve to eighteen, she studied art in Korea, but that was her second passion. The first was music. As a child, her family realized she had perfect pitch and she studied and played piano in church and gave piano lessons to others when she was only nine years old. Her interest in music evolved to composition, arranging and a powerful urge to form and direct an orchestra. She could hear all the arrangements in her head.
Coming to America to further her music education, at New York University, she honed her composition skills and began arranging for her 10-piece band and gigging around the city. For a while, she returned to her native Korea and taught college classes. But she was bitten by the East Coast music bug. The energy and cultural diversity of NYC were infectious. Ms. Hong returned and over the past fifteen years, she has been a band leader/composer and arranger. This year, 2017, she was awarded a grant for this recording from the prestigious Aaron Copland Fund for Music. The results equal this work titled, “Ee-Ya-Gi.”
I was struck by cut #3 on this 18-piece, orchestrated CD titled, “Para Mi Amigo Distante.” It begins with Ben Kono’s reed talents singing the melody sweetly on soprano saxophone. Then, the Bossa beat kicks in, thanks to Matt Panayides’ rhythm guitar licks and the orchestra supports the haunting melody that Ms. Hyeseon Hong wrote with ebullience. She says it is meant to celebrate Latin America and others who feel misplaced in another country. This composition recalls traveling to foreign shores, making new friends, then leaving and how those friendships come and go; how they inspire us and make memories that are ever-lasting. I also enjoyed the jazzy “Friends or Lovers” arrangement, which leant itself to Swing and Matt Panayides, once again, showed great competence on his guitar.
Cut #4 follows. It’s culturally rich with Subin Park as guest vocalist, opening the piece singing in Korean. “Boat Song” also features the tenor saxophone of Rich Perry. He brings jazz to the forefront in a lovely, unforgettable way with the orchestra oily-smooth in the background, laying down a royal foundation for his exquisite horn solo. Then Park’s voice re-enters, like raindrops on the rooftop, tinkling a different sound against the orchestration and sometimes singing in unison with the orchestrated melody.
I met Ingrid Jenson in Detroit, while reviewing her with her own ensemble. She was part of the Motor City’s historic Free Annual Jazz Festival and boy, could she swing! I was absolutely blown away by this lady’s tenacity on trumpet. She mesmerized the audience. So, of course I was eager to hear her with this orchestra, in a totally different setting. On the last cut, “Love Song: Story of the First Love,” she plays a pretty, legato solo, but I felt that the piece did not allow Jensen to stretch out into a place of freedom and improvisation, the way I witnessed her with her own group. I found the orchestration somewhat confining and very classical in format. Ingrid Jensen was also featured on “Trash Digging Queen: Story of Nica, the Dog,” which I found to be a fascinating title. On this composition by Ms. Hong, Jensen was given a lot more leeway to pursue self-expression on her instrument. I thought Andrew Hadro’s baritone saxophone added great depth and interest to this piece, while Rich Perry’s tenor brought jazz riffs and spontaneity to the tune. But the composition itself, is a strange combination of marching band influence mixed with orchestral whole tones and repetitive harmonics that just don’t necessarily bring jazz to my consciousness. On Cut #1, that opens this project, is titled “Harvest Dance,” and seems to signal a World Music vernacular, with hints of Asian influence. It also features the trumpet improv of Ms. Jensen. Perhaps this song demonstrates the point of this CD project. It weaves various cultures and styles together into a cohesive world musical exploration. The artist previews her composition skills, as well as her arrangements of self-expression and beauty during this Hyeseon Hong production.”
July 11, 2017
JazzMostly by Bruce Crowther
“The 17-piece ensemble directed by Hyeseon plays with bite and assurance, the melodic strains – lyrical, plaintive, lively – are underpinned by rhythms from Asia and the Americas… This should have wide appeal among fans of today’s jazz.”
“For the past several years, Hyeseon Hong has led a rehearsal band in New York City, a group that largely showcases her own compositions. These works draw upon the cultural heritage of Hyeseon’s homeland, South Korea, but are presented in the musical form of her new world. Titles for individual pieces include Harvest Dance: Story Of Thanksgiving, Para Mi Amigo Distante: Story Of Long Lost Friends, Boat Song: Story Of My Heritage, and Trash Digging Queen: Story Of Nica The Dog. The 17-piece ensemble directed by Hyeseon plays with bite and assurance, the melodic strains – lyrical, plaintive, lively – are underpinned by rhythms from Asia and the Americas. Among many solos (all of which are identified in the liner) are Ingrid Jensen’s fluid, warm trumpet on Harvest Dance and Love Song: Story Of First Love, Rich Perry’s compelling tenor saxophone on Boat Song, and Broc Hempel’s reflective piano on Disappearing Into Foam: Story Of Girlhood. The occasional vocal contributions, by E.J. Park and Subin Park, are mostly wordless and add to the album’s tonal palette. Musically, this a blend of contemporary big band music and intriguingly unusual south-east Asian concepts. The full personnel of the band heard here is: Augie Haas, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Wiseman, Colin Brigstocke (trumpets); Ron Wilkens, Daniel Linden, Ric Becker, Becca Patterson (trombones); Ben Kono, Matt Vashlishan, Rich Perry, Jeremy Powell, Andrew Hadro (reeds); Broc Hempel (piano); Matt Panayides (guitar); John Lenis (bass); Mark Ferber (drums); E.J. Park, Subin Park (vocals). This should have wide appeal among fans of today’s jazz.”
July 20, 2017
Veritas Vampirus by Mark S. Tucker
“Big band music and fresh as hell…Interlocking and ceaselessly shifting attentions to the levels of her work provide non-stop listener fascination, sometimes intriguing and challenging, other times just pure blissful immersion in the concord of a 17-piece jazz orchestra doing what they do best.”
“Hyeseon Hong (Hay-son Hong) was born for the aesthetic life. By the time she reached the age of 9, she was acknowledged as possessing perfect pitch (which goes one hell of long way in accounting for how untouchably clean her basic charts are…though I certainly wouldn’t leave out Aaron Nevezie’s flawless engineering in that respect either, not by a country mile), played in her church’s music services, and was giving piano lessons to others. At 12, she took a sharp left and studied art until age 18. Another left and she returned to the love that has endured right up to this moment: music and composition.
I’m going to do something I don’t usually do, which is to announce right off the bat my favorite track: “Harvest Dance”, the first cut of this big band smorgasbord. Basing in a trad Korean agrarian chant to implore the heavens for a good harvest for both the farmer’s and the village’s prosperity and health, the tempo slowly increases, as participating instruments chime in until Ron Wilkens breaks into a truly mind-blowing trombone solo sending chills up the spine. I haven’t heard that free and quirky a manner of thinking and exposition since the great old 70s progfusion era. Then Ingrid Jensen follows in a responsive trumpet solo and…well, I confess I couldn’t continue to the second cut until I’d repeated “Harvest Moon” three times. I ain’t jokin’ one little bit. Jensen is marvelous, but Wilkens is absolutely stunning.
Hong, however, is not devoting her attentions solely to her country of origin’s rich history of music but to other cultures as well: Latin American, Danish, American, etc. One cut, “Trash Digging Queen”, in fact concerns itself with the tale of Nica The Dog, a canine who behaves herself impeccably around her master, but as soon as that authority figure departs for a while, she flies straight at the trash and spreads it all over the house because “every facet of a creature’s nature must find an outlet”. The song starts off in martial cadence but slowly waxes more exuberant, especially when the soloists start having their way.
This really is big band music and fresh as hell, though I guess I should say it ranges the ages and modalities freely, shackled only by the imageries of the storylines, which Hong shades in every possible way and directs as intimately as a witty maestro should. Her band is well chosen, zoned in on the composer’s aesthetics. Their interlocking and ceaselessly shifting attentions to the levels of her work provide non-stop listener fascination, sometimes intriguing and challenging, other times just pure blissful immersion in the concord of a 17-piece jazz orchestra doing what they do best.“