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CD review: Linda Oh grabs ears, requesting 'Initial Here'

June 07, 2012|By Chris Barton
  • The cover of Linda Oh's new album, "Initial Here."
The cover of Linda Oh's new album, "Initial Here." (Green Leaf Records )

Just where does an up-and-coming jazz talent go after covering the Red Hot Chili Peppers? While that's a reductive way to introduce a talent as promising as Linda Oh -- who turned in a deft reworking of "Soul to Squeeze" on her album "Entry" -- the bassist-composer follows up her promising debut with "Initial Here," which provides further proof that Esperanza Spalding is not the only female bassist-bandleader worthy of acclaim.

Oh was born in Malaysia and raised in Australia before moving to New York five years ago. Backed by a roster of top-tier New York City talent that includes keyboardist Fabian Almazan, drummer Rudy Royston and saxophonist Dayna Stephens, Oh looks to her diverse background for inspiration. Inspired by Bergman's "Persona" from 1966, opener "Ultimate Persona" rises from Oh's insistent, punchy bass line to provide Stephens and Almazan ample room amid the piece's Indian-inspired rhythms, while Mandarin Chinese makes a cameo on "Thicker Than Water," a weaving mix of bowed bass, bassoon and vocals from guest Jen Shyu.

Other pieces point toward jazz tradition, as in the restless cover of Duke Ellington's "Come Sunday," while others point to Oh's classical background in a zigzagging take on Leonard Bernstein's "Something's Coming," which segues into Stravinsky's "Les Cinq Doigts." What's most impressive is how well these elements hold together, even when Oh picks up an electric bass on the knotty "Little House," which features Almazan on a flickering Fender Rhodes. It's immediate, ear-grabbing stuff, no Chili Peppers required.

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