New Album Liberated Gesture
November 10th 2023 Sunnyside Records
Yuhan Su on vibraphone
Caroline Davis on saxophone
Matt Mitchell on piano
Marty Kenney on bass
Dan Weiss on drums
Recorded at Big Orange Sheep, Brooklyn, NY (2022.May.17th)
Recorded by: Michael Perez-Cisneros
Recording Assistants: Kevin Thomas, Alon Benjamini
Mixing. Mastering: David Torn
Editing: Brian Montgomery
Producer: Yuhan Su
Liner Notes to Yuhan Su’s Liberated Gesture
by Kevin Sun
“The first and most important thing is to remain free, free in each line you undertake, in your ideas and in your political action, in your moral conduct. The artist especially must remain free from all outer constraint. Everything we feel deeply must be expressed.” – Hans Hartung, in a 1974 interview with German art critic Heidi Bürklin for Cimaise magazine
* * *
Freedom, constraint, expression, intuition.
These concepts are foundational not only to music, but also to the arts and civil society at large. On this fourth and latest album, Yuhan Su lights her own path toward a deeper conception of these formidable higher order concerns while always enfolding the human touch in her music.
As the collected songs on Liberated Gesture demonstrate, Su draws from the spectra of her experience, from the quotidian to the idiosyncratic, in this tenaciously designed program of music: the dismaying reality of consumer electronics, perceptions of literature and visual art, cherished memories of singular evenings.
Su, an improvising vibraphonist who wields her classically-trained facility with subtlety and purposefulness, convenes an enviable band of musical thinkers for this recording: alto saxophonist Caroline Davis, pianist Matt Mitchell, bassist Marty Kenney, and drummer Dan Weiss. A good bandleader makes sure that their sidepersons are heard to best advantage, and Su shares the spotlight with her bandmates without ever compromising her own musical vision.
In a recent interview with The Jazz Gallery’s Jazz Speaks blog, Su mentions being particularly impressed while studying the powerful color and energy of Hans Hartung’s painted line and admiring his embrace of intuition and the moment. These are valuable qualities not only for an abstract painter, but also for anybody who values graceful navigation of the everyday, and this music bears the unmistakable traces of an artist animated by these same principles.
Words on the Music
Inspired by the premature death of an iPhone, “Hi Tech Pros and Cons” drops us immediately into a propulsive backbeat groove with surprising shifts of accents. The upbeat mood also evokes an absurdly protracted staring contest: who will flinch first? Davis’s lyrical alto counterpoises the jagged rhythmic architecture, with a searching improvisation that confidently unfolds from the fabric of the composition. The fearsome counterpoint of the rhythm section takes on a different, more transparent cast when Su steps into the foreground.
“Character” is anthemic of Brooklyn modern jazz with a post-M-Base feel: atonal and angular, with a driving pulse and complex meter. Su solos first in highly chromatic fashion. Mitchell reflects and echoes Su’s upper register reports, entering in characteristically slippery and imperturbable fashion. He digs in, fragments, and unspools, pixelating his own ideas with varying degrees of rhythmic dissonance and resolution. The pace relaxes with “Naked Swimmer,” which harkens to a quiet midnight dip into a cold lake in east Taiwan. This opens with stark solo piano and dramatic chiaroscuro simultaneities of high and low, backlit with glassy shadings of vibraphone. Kenney comes to the forefront with a warm, plaintive expression over a minor mode before a building romantic episode for the whole ensemble. Su displays her orchestrational prowess here with a melody distributed across octaves and enveloping clouds of pitches that astonish through their artful diffusion.
“Didion” pays homage to the great writer and her iconic work on grieving, The Year of Magical Thinking. Weiss delivers a bracingly immediate septuplet groove that surges alongside the melody stated by saxophone and vibraphone. Mitchell improvises a quicksilver exposition on the song’s harmonic frame, his a fluent, percolating solo completed by Weiss’s flowing time and Kenney’s bedrock playing. Davis’s centered alto emerges over a reef of crystalline chords, lending an impressionistic melodic contrast to the propulsive rhythm section. The final episode deserves special attention and ends in rapid dissolution.
On “She goes to a silent war,” Davis intones a haunting, continually relevant poem by Su over suspended vibraphone chords. When the full quintet enters, the mood recalls the best of ’70s jazz like Clifford Jordan’s epochal Glass Bead Games: wistful but not melodramatic, painted with waves of color and soul. In an alarming shift of mood, “Siren Days” transposes unending ambulance sirens from the early days of the pandemic lockdown into its opening piano call. This is a study in unremitting tension, with a balletic opening improvisation by Su followed by a dovetailing saxophone and piano. Weiss steps forward briefly for a cross stick-forward solo, with variations on an idea developed around the kit recalling while reaching beyond the titular siren.
The album’s eponymous centerpiece, movements II–IV of the “Liberated Gesture” suite, begins with solo piano on “The Arc,” with complex, taxonomically-resistant chords that bear a discernible motivic shape and trajectory. A slow ensemble chorale follows before a transition into a softly swinging jazz waltz featuring Su. “Tightrope Walk” begins with a solo drum meditation on overtones and resonance, followed by a devilishly complex dance whose thorny rhythms bring out the best in Mitchell. “Hartung’s Light” closes the suite, with a melody and atmosphere conveying the airy, vaulted space and light of a modernist cathedral. Kenney’s grounded playing counterbalances the rarefied harmony before a jauntily swinging-ish improvisation by Mitchell.
In a nod to the album’s beginning, Su lets us off gently with the groovy rock beat and electric bass line of “Hassan’s Fashion Magazine.” We witness pianistic ripples at warp speed through this tonally abstract but funky romp, a play of variations on density. Fade to close.
October 27th at The Jazz Gallery
Yuhan Su Liberated Gesture
The Jazz Gallery
1158 Broadway 5th floor, New York
7:30 pm / 9:30 pm
Yuhan Su on vibraphone
Alex LoRe on saxophone
Matt Mitchell on piano
Marty Kenney on bass
Dan Weiss on drums.
New album in making
In May 2022, Yuhan recorded her 4th album Liberated Gesture with a stellar band featuring Matt Mitchell on piano, Caroline Davis on saxophone, Marty Kenney on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. The session took place at Big Orange Sheep in Brooklyn, NY. The project is being mixing and mastering by David Torn.
Am experimental/electric trio featuring Yuhan Su on Vibraphone and Synth, Zbigniew Chojnacki on Accordion and live-electronics, and Ramon Prats on Drums.
Next concert will be on November 16th at Jazzycolor Festival in Paris, France.
Yuhan Su European Tour 2022 Fall
Sep 8 Firenze Jazz Festival (Italy)
Sep 14 Banyoles (Spain)
Sep 15 Perpignan (France)
Sep 16 Mercat de Musica Viva Festival (Spain)
Sep 17 Jamboree Jazz Club (Spain)
Sep 18 Girona Auditorium (Spain)
Sep 19 Robadors 23 (Spain)
Sep 21 Jimmy Glass Jazz Club (Spain)
Sep 22 Milano Jazz Club (Spain)
Sep 24 Stadtgarten (Germany)
Sep 25 Lokalharmonie (Germany)