Jihye Lee Orchestra

Infinite Connections
(Motéma)

Composer/conductor Jihye Lee has a keen sense of rhythm in her work. On her latest recording, Infinite Connections, Lee puts that affection and her powerful music on full display. The theme for the album rests on the profound memories Lee has of her grandmother, who was born in Korea when it was a Japanese colony. Lee’s grandmother, an orphan, married as a teenager, mainly to be protected from the sex trade. She maintained the sadness throughout her life of a woman held down by a stifling patriarchal society, according to Lee. The tune “Born In 1935” captures that feeling beautifully, chronicling her grandmother’s journey from happiness in youth to darkness in adulthood to dementia late in life (she passed away in 2022). The orchestration is beautiful. Alto soloist Dave Pietro (known for his work with the Maria Schneider Orchestra and practically every other New York big band of note) delivers a fabulously stirring solo. The power of Lee’s rhythmic focus here and throughout the recording is no accident. She features traditional Korean folk rhythms as the backdrop to her compositions on Infinite Connections. They are exquisitely performed by percussionist Keita Ogawa of Snarky Puppy fame along with the orchestra’s amazing rhythm section of Jared Schonig on drums, Matt Clohesy on bass, Adam Birnbaum on piano and Alex Goodman on guitar. The album has punch from the downbeat, with the stunning opener “Surrender” featuring trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire delivering a killer guest spot. He also guests on the mysteriously lovely “You Are My Universe.” Kudos go out to trombonist Alan Ferber and tenor saxophonist Jason Rigby for terrific work throughout; especially fine are their solos on “We Are All From The Same Stream.” Co-produced by Lee and big band composer-leader Darcy James Argue, Infinite Connections stirs the soul, inspires the listener to ponder deep thoughts and makes for an ultimately beautiful listening experience. Jihye Lee is a composer who with capture your ears, attention and imagination, today and well into the future.


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