London Jazz Festival 3: SooJin Suh
K-Music is an annual festival of contemporary South Korean music which ended last night with an event at the Purcell Room on the South Bank, held in conjunction with the EFG London Jazz Festival. The closing concert featured the drummer SooJin Suh and her Seoul-based Coloris Trio, completed by the pianist Jaehun Kang and the bassist Hoo Kim.
It would be easy to place the group somewhere in the middle of the spectrum of 21st century piano trios that has the Bad Plus and EST at one end and GoGo Penguin at the other. But it soon became apparent that they have something of their own to offer: a thoughtful, spacious music based on compositions, mostly by Suh, that include dedications to Andrew Hill and Herbie Nichols, which gives some idea of what they’re about.
Piano ostinatos and ground bass figures triggered many of the pieces, often providing a platform for Suh to show her command of flow and texture. She began with a solo cymbal passage whose grace reminded me of Billy Higgins, and seldom failed to be doing something interesting, whether with sticks, mallets or brushes. Much of the music was rubato, with time fluid and implied rather than explicit, which suits her perfectly, although long passage of 4/4 swing on Hoo Kim’s “Rain Drops” had an impressively lithe propulsiveness. Her companions played their part in a three-way conversation, loosening up as the long set went on.
They were joined for a handful of pieces by the British alto saxophonist Camilla George, who had earlier played an enjoyable short opening set in a duo with the brilliant guitarist Artie Zaitz. Adjusting to a more straightforward hard-bop groove, the quartet produced a particularly buoyant reading of Horace Silver’s “Nica’s Dream”. After George had left the stage, they finished with a tender version of Suh’s “Tear Down a Wall”, a ballad with the simplicity of a child’s song that ends their excellent recent album and gave the evening a perfect closure.
* Colorist by SooJin Suh’s Coloris Trio is on the Mirrorball Music label. The photograph of Suh at Purcell Room was taken by Ikin Yum.