Review; Painter's Eye

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Overreaching, and seemingly unaware of it. Kim has based this album on the poetry (for sung texts) and paintings (for inspiration) of the Korean artist Sun Doo Kim. The poems are haikus in flavor if not structure; pithy, tranquil, sincere, as are the painting represented in the PDF booklet contained on the album’s disc. While they don’t obviously seem to provide material for solid music, more has been built on less.

But what Kim builds is limited. The settings are consistently straight, many of them with aphoristic phrasing out of the Steve Lacy songbook. With her elegant, full voice and excellent intonation, that would seem to give Kim the advantage over Irene Aebi. But where Lacy favored a lean profile, wit and tang, and had something to say about the poems he set, Kim is resolutely square and lugubrious. It’s clear that she’s personally fond of the poetry, but it’s not clear why, other than it’s pretty. That would be fine for a handful of songs, but it makes for a monotonous record. After a few tracks, one is desperate for some variation in tempo or mood. Kim’s taste is good in a perfectly acceptable way, but my taste demands more flavor.

The band looks amazing on paper: Chris Speed, Ben Monder, Angelica Sanchez, Sean Conly, Richie Barshay and Pheeroan Aklaff, but they are given nothing to do. It seems that they are just big name hired guns, marshaled by Kim and co-producer Darius Jones, who probably should have offered some critical opinions during the recording sessions. Lovely, refined, inexpressive and uninteresting.

gtra1n

I'm a composer and musician, and I write about music—I do that here, for the New York Classical Review, at the Brooklyn Rail (I edit the music section there) and any place else that will have me, like New Music Box and Music & Literature. I also wrote the Miles Davis' Bitches Brew book in the 33 1/3 series.