Jazz is a rather close knit community and at times this can have both incredibly positive as well as some slightly negative drawbacks. As a writer it is fairly common place to have other artists recommend talent for review and while more often then not the artist in question is almost always well worth your time, there is the occasional artist that puts one in the awkward position of communicating a less than favorable position on something that is of course incredibly personable.
In this particular case a dynamic young talent has been brought to my attention whost artistic gifts far exceed a chronological age. Ekah Hyunjoong Kim was encouraged to contact me for a review by a couple of friends of mine. The prolific pianist and composer Jean-Michel Pilc and the gifted young bassist Andrea Veneziani having recently wrapped up a trio recording with the great Kenny Werner recommended Kim contact me so that I could give Ekahsonic a spin and perhaps share my thoughts.
I owe both Pilc and Veneziani a debt of gratitude as Ekahsonic can best be described as a remarkable recreation of the very essences of the spirit of the traditional with the more contemporary improvisation drawing from the sound of the Afro-Latin cultures of Cuba, Peru and Brazil. Kim may well be hitting on the closest hybrid of music that is more traditionally referred to as "Cu-Bop" as well as any band since Dizzy Gillespie. Ekah Kim is a rhythmic master of the percussive nuances essential in driving the more authentic train here instead of just riding the "Cu-Bop" train for rhythmic pleasure alone.
"Baby Steps" allows the ensemble to literally crawl before it walks as a percussive tension builds to a crescendo with punctuated rhythms of pianist Junya Fukumoto and tenor saxophonist Liutauras Janusaitis. Percussive titan Jorge Perez Gonzalez is the sonic mortar this tune is built around as a lyrical finesse is developed while never sacrificing an air of authenticity while pushing closer to the contemporary edge. The rhythm is indeed the king. "Family and Friends" slows the tempo while the more Cuban percussive edge of Jorge Perez Gonzalez percolates just beneath the surface. Ekah Kim swings like a beast behind the kit and the secret that allows this ensemble to transcend the Latin borders with ease is that Kim pushes the music forward. This is a true working band, an ego-centric leader would have this ensemble crash and burn before the first tune is over and this is the true nature of the hybrid they embrace. Kim's band is a Latin collective embracing spirit, creativity and inspiration as few can or successfully do. "The Question" features the exquisite vocals of Tais Alvarenga for a Latin excursion into the vocal realm that transcends language barriers. True artistic beauty is void of culture and the conventional boundaries that limit the potential of human expression.
Ekah Hyunjoong Kim and Ekahsonic and a most formidable ensemble and possibly the future of Latin jazz at a time when new blood not to mention artistic potential is desperately needed!
Tracks:Baby Steps; 99 Inspirations 1 Perspiration; Family and Friends; The Question; Two Years Old; Epiphany; Empty Playground; Logic; Burn!
Personnel: Tais Alvarenga: voice; Liutauras Janusaitis: tenor saxophone; Junya Fukumoto: piano; Keisuke Higshino: electric bass; Ekah Hyunjoong Kim: drums; Jorge Perez Gonzalez: congas, cajon.