It’s been four years since the young lady bassist from Australia took on NYC and released a debut album with not only bass chops but a fully-form conception for her own style of jazz. No, I’m not talkin’ about Tal Wilkenfeld but rather, the acoustic specialist Linda Oh. At the end of my survey of Entry I predicted that “we should be hearing much more from Ms. Oh for a long time to come.” Here we are four years and soon-to-be two albums later and Ms. Oh is making me look clairvoyant.
Oh has since become one of the most in-demand bass players in NYC. She currently plays in combos led by Dave Douglas, Joe Lovano and Pascal Le Boeuf. She leads her own ensembles as well and last year she made another solid record, this time featuring Fabian Almazan, Dayna Stephens and Rudy Royston. Just a year after Initial Here, she’s back with all new personnel for Album Number Three, Sun Pictures.
The inspiration for the Sun Pictures material she wrote came from her world travels, from gigs and from going back home to western Australia. The music is accordingly reflective and wistful. To help carry out these compositions, she enlisted saxophonist Ben Wendel (Kneebody), guitarist and fellow Aussie James Muller and drummer Ted Poor (Cuong Vu, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Ben Monder).
Throughout these seven songs, Oh leads this group with an invisible hand, allowing the members to let their musical personalities show, using well placed notes to leave markers that function as directional guides for the others.
She devised an open melody that she implies for “Polyphonic HMI,” in which Wendel and Muller trade soulful licks. Here we hear Poor’s unique drumming style, utilizing his rims effectively. Later on the tempo picks up almost imperceptibly, an indication of the strong telepathy.
“Blue Over Gold” sports a light, intricate groove that begins with Oh and Poor, with Wendel and Muller winding up with a two note figure. Wendel is sounding much like peers Donny McCaslin and Chris Potter on his solo and Oh solos with careful articulation.
Muller’s improvising approach is all his own; he solos free of clichés during the muted “Footfall” and shows a great feel for the subtle melody of “Terminal 3.” The guitarist works well with Wendel, trading licks during not just “Polyphonic” but also “Yoda,” a moment where Poor is all but soloing barely contained right underneath the two.
The least typical track comes right at the beginning: “Shutterspeed Dreams” was pasted together from session warm-ups and outtakes. Looping and sampling is nothing new but this one is innovative in the source material used, improvisational jazz, and there’s a defined shape to it. It’s a path Oh could go further down if she chose to.
That’s for another record, perhaps. This one, Sun Pictures, represents another solid step in the evolution of Linda Oh, and suggests that there’s still much more creative music coming from her. Admittedly, I’m not going out on a limb in making that prediction.