Review

HYESEON HONG JAZZ ORCHESTRA EE-YA-GI

Album · 2017 · Progressive Big Band
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4/5 ·
js
On first listen you will find it hard to believe that “EE-YA-GI” is only the first album released by big band leader Hyeson Hong. Such a well developed approach to arranging is rare with a debut recording, but truth be told, Hyeson is hardly a newbie as she has been leading ensembles in both Korea and New York City for some time now. Its only appropriate that she has finally been given a chance to share her sophisticated writing and arranging with the rest of the world. There are seven tracks on “EE-YA-GI”, and each one stands as their own separate colorful world of sounds and melodies. Hong’s approach is rooted in the modern big band sounds of Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, plus some exotic colors reminiscent of Don Ellis, some modern 3rd stream influence ala Marie Schneider, and even some sophisticated pop sass in a vein similar to Quincy Jones. To all this Hong often adds melodies taken from her native Korea, the end result is an infinitely interesting orchestral extravaganza that is all her own. The talented 18 piece orchestra of New Yorkers that Hong leads on her debut album is accented by Marie Schneider alumna such as Rich Perry on tenor sax and Ingrid Jensen on trumpet. The wordless vocals of EJ Park adds much exotic color to many of the melodies, and Korean vocalist, Subin Park, leads “Boat Song” with a traditional ‘Chang’ song.

The aforementioned “Boat Song” probably carries the most Korean flavor, while album opener, “Harvest Dance”, also displays much melodic content from Hong’s homeland. “Disappearing into Foam” and “Love Song” are melodic and romantic, while “Trash Digging Queen” (an ode to Hyeseon’s misbehaving pet dog), has a hectic and almost comical arrangement that features constantly shifting rhythms. Possibly an album highlight though is “Para Mi Arrigo Distante”, which features a rib-sticking melody that recalls some of Quincy Jones best work in the 60s. Modern big band enthusiasts take note, “EE-YA-GI” is complex and challenging, but also fun and buoyant too. Such an excellent balance, lets hope there will be many more albums from Hyeseon Hong in the near future.
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