Outstanding, unique, though provoking large ensemble jazz with special guests!
Featuring acclaimed jazz artists, Rich Perry and Ingrid Jensen, the Hyeseon Hong Jazz Orchestra is an 18-piece band featuring Hyeseon’s original jazz compositions drawing inspiration from her rich Korean musical heritage. The classical rhythms and sounds from traditional Korean music are interwoven with a modern big band sensibility creating a unique sound.
Ms. Hong, who is originally from Seoul, South Korea, has been working in both NYC and Asia for the past 15 years as a band leader and composer in a wide range of orchestration settings. Her band which has been performing throughout New York for the past several years under her leadership, brought their talent to Bunker Studios in Brooklyn to lay down her original sounding music.
“EE-YA-GI” (or “stories” interpreted) is Ms. Hong’s debut big band album featuring radiant sonic spaces brimming with energy and colorful vitality. Rich Perry and Ingrid Jensen are featured soloists throughout the album, with specially featured roles on “Boat Song” and “Love Song” respectively. Filling the rest of the ranks of the group with some of the busiest big band players on the NYC jazz scene today, EE-YA-GI really delivers the goods!
Composer and director: Hyeseon Hong
Saxes: Ben Kono (alto, soprano, ute), Matt Vashlishan (alto, EWI, ute), Rich Perry (tenor),
Jeremy Powell (tenor, clariet), Andrew Hadro (Bari, bs clarinet)
Trumpets: Augie Haas, Ingrid Jensen, Jason Wiseman, Colin Brigstocke
Trombones: Ron Wilkens, Daniel Linden, Ric Becker, Becca Patterson
Rhythm: Matt Panayides (guitar), Broc Hempel (piano), John Lenis (bass), Mark Ferber (drums)
Vocalists: EJ Park and Subin Park (opening vocals on “Boat Song”)
What a delightful surprise. Korean-born composer / arranger Hyeseon Hong, a graduate of NYU who now lives in New Jersey, enfolds the best of two worlds —east and west —on her superlative debut album, EE-YA-GI (Stories), introducing Hong’s eighteen-piece Jazz Orchestra and some heavy-hitting soloists including trumpeter Ingrid Jensen and tenor saxophonist Rich Perry.
While Hong salutes her heritage at various points along the way, she proves on every number her conclusive grasp of traditional western jazz, writing themes whose handsome melodic and harmonic framework is nourished by an abiding sense of swing as epitomized by large ensembles from Fletcher Henderson and Duke Ellington through Basie, Herman, Buddy Rich, Jones-Lewis and others of that breed. As the album’s title denotes, Hong’s writing is largely thematic, ranging from Thanksgiving (“Harvest Dance”) to youth and love (“Friends or Lovers”), long- lost friends (“Para mi Amigo Distante”), her Korean heritage (“Boat Song”), girlhood memories (“Disappearing Into Foam”), first love (“Love Song”) and even the idiosyncrasies of an unruly dog (“Trash Digging Queen”).
The opening “Harvest Dance,” inspired, Hong writes, by a traditional Korean rhythm, encompasses bright solos by Jensen and trombonist Ron Wilkens. Alto Ben Kono, guitarist Matt Panayides and Matt Vashlishan on EWI are the soloists on the light-footed “Friends or Lovers,” Kono (soprano) and tenor Jeremy Powell on “Para mi Amigo,” which dances to a breezy Latin groove. Perry is showcased on the eastern-oriented “Boat Song” (which includes a wordless vocal by E.J. Park and Subin Park) and solos again on the playful “Trash Digging Queen.” Pianist Broc Hempel is the lone improviser on the lyrical “Disappearing into Foam” (with more wordless vocals), trumpeter Jensen on the warm and even-tempered finale, “Love Song.”
As one whose path lies mostly on the horizon, Hyeseon Hong has served notice with EE-YA-GI that hers is a voice to be hearkened to and applauded within the ranks of contemporary big-band composers and arrangers. Well done.
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.”
HyeSeon Hong – EE-YA-GI (STORIES): Having lived in Korea for around 15 years, I can tell you that the kind of jazz Ms. Hong leads here wasn’t at all common until (maybe) around the early 21st century… even as late as 2010, those band leaders (and players) who were doing jazz still hadn’t quite “got it” – so this excellent 50 minute set featuring a whole host of players, is truly a treat! As you listen to great songs like “Para Mi Amigo Distante“, you’ll realize just how talented she and her players are at developing a piece gradually (it clocks in at 8:00 minutes) into the kind of jazz that the genre came from in the first place… each of the instruments melds into the overall effort to give you one of the most pleasant jazz listens you’ll ever experience! I just loved the vocal work on the oddly titled “Disappearing Into Foam“, and the piano work is superb! From the standpoint of Korean music integrated seamlessly with great jazz, my personal favorite of the seven tunes offered up, though, 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, with an “EQ” (energy quotient) rating of 4.98.
-Improvijazzation Nation by Dick Metcalf