Recent Listening: Linda Oh

Linda Oh Entry.jpgLinda Oh, Entry (Linda Oh Music). Oh is a 25-year-old Chinese from Malaysia who grew up in Australia, plays bass and has a Masters degree from the Manhattan School of Music. Her music, as eclectic as she, eludes classification except as fresh and uncompromising. She achieves remarkable unity using spare instrumentation, nicely crafted compositions and sidemen who listen closely and react to her, as she does to them. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Obed Calvaire share Oh’s instrumental skill and her economical application of it. Her acoustic bass sound is firm, clear and deep. She has no evident tendency toward invading guitar territory, as many young bassists do, and she makes satisfying note choices even in material that might encourage the randomness of free jazz.
The music has moments of annunciatory boldness–there is a kind of bebop fanfare in “Gunners”–but even at its most complex and active, Oh, Akinmusire and Calvaire exercise the restraint of artistic judgment. In “Numero Uno,” Akinmusire overdubs himself into a brass choir of contrapuntal voices before the piece evolves into a series of thoughtful solos and a stretch of interactive improvisation. The swift “Fourth Limb” is all three-way interaction for its first half, with sparkling trumpet work from Akinmusire over Calvaire’s pointillist drumming, then a bass solo that manages coherence at a demanding tempo. Though the CD package gives no composer credits, all of the pieces but one seem to be by Oh. The album concludes with the contrast of intensity and, ultimately, peacefulness in a cover of The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Soul to Squeeze.” This is the debut recording of a musician who leaves the listener with a keen sense that she knows who she is and where she is headed. It is available as a CD here or an MP3 download here.

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