By John Corbett | Published June 2017
Linda May Han Oh ably has demonstrated why she’s so sought after as a bassist. On Walk Against Wind, she doubles down with a set of 11 inventive original compositions extrapolated upon by a stunning band. And for some of the tracks, she returns to electric bass, the instrument of her youth back in Western Australia.
On bass guitar, she’s delightfully free of fusion clichés, preferring beautiful time feel to showy heroics. On the delicate, childlike “Perpluzzle,” one of two tracks that also feature the leader on vocals, she’s a super propulsive presence, even joining saxophonist Ben Wendel for a swift, sudden cascading downward line, like paper caught in the wind.
The tunes all seem simple and clear, many with folk-like melodies, but are actually complex constructions involving intricate overlays of different densities and activity, sometimes coming into phase, sometimes gently straying apart. Wendel plays the gorgeous “Deepsea Dancers” with a sexy little hiss at the reed, like fuzz on a stylus. On “Midnight,” undulating electric keyboards add a watery stratum, while “Firedancer” is drier, with punchy little hits punctuating a shaggy-dog melodic line, played by pianist Fabian Almazan in tandem with Oh.
This album’s major revelation comes in the form of a drummer. Justin Brown is new to me, but his presence lifts and enlivens everything on Walk Against Wind, with total authority and a dictionary of different touches, from the cloudy cymbals on the title track to the clamorous timbres and tricky time—based on a traditional Korean rhythm—of “Mantis.” Brown is a great talent and certainly someone to listen for in Oh’s band and elsewhere.
Walk Against Wind: Lucid Lullaby; Firedancer; Speech Impediment; Perpluzzle; Walk Against Wind; Ikan Bilis; Mother Reason; Mantis; Deepsea Dancers; Midnight; Western. (63:34)
Personnel: Linda May Han Oh, acoustic bass, electric bass, vocals (3–4); Ben Wendel, tenor saxophone; Matthew Stevens, guitar; Justin Brown, drums; Fabian Almazan, piano (2), keyboards (6, 10); Minji Park, percussion (8).