A stellar improvisational dichotomy of sound, texture and intimacy.
Brent Black / www.criticaljazz.com
One of the rare artists that can transfer the fundamentals of classical study into an impressionistic abstract presentation of emotional intimacy. Jo-Yu Chen is modern jazz pianist charting her own course and doing so with a deceptively subtle flair. The aptly titled Stranger is a harmonic mosaic of an emotional ebb and flow that involves the interpersonal angst associated with those strangers that become friends and those friends that gradually become strangers over time. Along with this, there is the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land despite calling the Big Apple home for several years. A release that takes a basil emotive quality and transforms these feelings into an incredibly organic sense of self discovery.
The addition of Kurt Rosenwinkel on three tracks was certainly a stroke of genius as his intricate work fits hand in glove with Chen's lyrical direction. The trio is rounded off with two of New York's finest in bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Tommy Crane. Minor keys, shifting meter and a nuanced rhythm section create a harmonic landscape that is edgy yet one with that rare organic pulse. This is modern jazz piano approaching a more free contemporary state and few pianists can do it better than Jo-Yu Chen. "Castle" features Kurt Rosenwinkel and cascades over a deconstructed fusion base that is the embodiment of the sound of New York. "Song For Ryder" is an exquisite exploratory of melodic motion with the steady rolling bass of Tordini and finesse of drummer Tommy Crane adding a pulsating texture. "Stranger" may be the closest track to traditional "old school" in a Bud Powell meets Chick Corea vein.
Stranger is relaxed yet fierce, there is an effortless flow within the compositions that highlight Chen's amazing if not meteoric leap as an improvisational artist. Jo-Yu Chen has discovered her voice, her vision and with a presentation that is cutting edge for the piano trio format. Stranger is the heartbeat of a city, an artist and of music that ties both together.
An absolute must for your collection...
Tracks: Mon Cher; Wolfman; Castle; Fragments; Stranger; The Pirate; Interlude; Song For Ryder; Happy New Year; Art of Darkness; Foliage At Night.
Personnel: Jo-Yu Chen: piano; Christopher Tordini: bass; Tommy Crane: drums.
Kurt Rosenwinkel: Guitar - Castle; The Art of Darkness; The Pirate.