By Kira Grunenberg | Published March 2020
To call Jimin Lee’s Strange Flower satisfying modern jazz would be a disservice to her compositional inventiveness and the album’s lyrical muse, Korean modernist poet Yi Sang.
An augmented subdominant in the opening phrase of “Mirror,” followed by sporadic shifts between major and harmonic minor tonality, serve as musical counterparts to Sang’s strange thoughts on an otherwise ordinary object. And unison sections shared by Lee and Eunyoung Kim’s piano melodies feel like metaphors for the contrast between one’s true self and a reflection in a mirror. “Flower Tree” presents similar musical texturing, but revolves around the idea of struggle and yearning for different circumstances. Everything—from light cymbal taps to relaxed plucks from Seungho Jang’s bass—exudes emotional brightness, matching the titular object. Yet, the ambivalence of harmonic resolution reflects Lee playing with the poem’s idea of a tree’s beauty and its inability to move. Her whistling and irregular vocals on the free-jazz “Crow’s Eye View Poem No. 12” even align with Sang’s contrasting white pigeons with loose, swooping bundles of laundry. While Strange Flower is a pleasant enough listen, exploring Sang’s poetry only will add to the experience.
Strange Flower: Flower Tree; Mirror; Crow’s Eye View Poem No. 12; Self-Portrait; Words · For · White · Flower · 1-3; Cliff; Paper Memorial; This Kind Of Poetry. (52:45)
Personnel: Jimin Lee, vocals; Seungho Jang, bass; Junyoung Song, drums; Sunjae Lee, saxophone (3, 4, 8); Jinwon Oh (3, 9), Jin Soo Kim (10), guitar; Eunyoung Kim, piano.