Hyeonseon Baek - Longing
(You & Me Music, 2024)
Essayist Gerald Early once commented that jazz music was one of America’s gifts to the world and its culture. The genre's growth owes its evolution from the mythic Buddy Bolden to the present, in no small part, to foreign assimilation and reconsideration. Where jazz goes, cultural elements insinuate themselves into its fiber, forever changing its composition and landscape. Korean vocalist Hyeonseon Baek provides his input to jazz with his sweet and sincere voice and a band that any artist would die for.
Baek’s support consists of pianist Kevin Hays, bassist Linda May Han Ho, drummer Jochen Rueckert, and saxophonist Lucas Pino, who provide the singer with a thoroughly contemporary sonic cushion on which to rest his warm vocal musings. The disc is arranged by an informed and slightly dissonant paradigm, providing the recital with dramatic tension. The spacious placement of the singer and band characterizes the 10 selections.
Four of the selections were composed by Baek, revealing a method well beyond his youth. “West 4th Street” is presented in Korean and English, a homage to the history of jazz with bebop as its vehicle, allowing Baek to display his considerable scat skills. “Longing” is a persistent ballad, propelled by Rueckert’s springless snare drum and Ho’s insistent timekeeping. “My Temptation” features a Lucus Pine tenor solo that is slippery and light, complementing Baek’s charming tone.
Baek handles the standards with authority, particularly Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life.” Hays carefully prepares a small lounge atmosphere in which Baek’s voice can comfortably reside. Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love” fares just as well. Baek has a beautifully light, slightly accented delivery that grows warmer with each listen.