From a probably biased perspective, I can state that jazz seems to be enjoying a renaissance. But for artists like Jungsu Choi, the genre’s age is showing and there needs to be an overhaul to the form. That is what the composer, arranger and sometimes vocalist aims to do.
“In whatever direction jazz might develop, I am ready to welcome the new jazz, bye-bye jazz era!” Choi writes. For audiences even faintly acquainted with jazz and its conventions, completely renovating a genre is a tall order. It is especially difficult because some fans and musicians would argue that there is no need to “fix” anything about jazz.
Maybe “fix” is too strong a word. Jazz has always been open to experimentation, its very development might even be said to have been the result of an innovation of sorts. Still, fans and critics should be open to the idea of new ideas finding their way into jazz, as there is bound to be room for continued development after more than 100 years.
Nevertheless, Choi’s idea of innovation comes in the form of “Tschuss Jazz Era,” an album of five songs with a total running time of almost one hour. The densely packed recording finds Choi leading the Tiny Orkester (and lending vocals on two tracks) through songs that sound more traditional than expected, based on Choi’s statement about the Jazz Era. But to which “Jazz Era” does Choi refer? Does he mean that era that essentially ended 50 or so years ago with the rise and domination of rock ‘n’ roll? Because arguably the current period is not a jazz age. Jazz is present, and there are artists who are doing interesting things in jazz, but most are paying attention and (sometimes) homage to the Golden Age of Jazz and not trying to get rid of its conventions.
About Jungsu Choi and Tiny Orkester
Choi is an arranger and composer who has studied music in Vienna and London. While a student at the London Conservatory, Kingston University London, Choi studied jazz, music for films and electro-acoustic music. Choi’s work has been played by a number of orchestras and big bands. He also has provided music for different types of dance performances, in addition to composing and arranging for theatre, television and film.
The purpose of Tiny Orkester is to “interpret old jazz standards in a unique fashion.” Choi aims to do this with the compact orchestra that is Tiny Orkester. It took Choi three years to compose the five songs. The musicians who comprise Tiny Orkester are among Korea’s best jazz musicians. The musicians’ skill combined with Choi’s talent for composing and arranging makes the project come to life.
“Tchuss Jazz Era” by Jungsu Choi and Tiny Okester
Of the five songs on the recording, the standout track is arguably “Stolen Yellow.” It is vibrant with horns and drums playing frenetically. In the back of the soundscape is a male vocal line that sounds as though he is singing in syllables. The tracks is also invigorated by the inclusion of an electric guitar.
The song’s dynamics might remind some listeners of that of rock songs. While a trumpet plays a lonely motif with just a sparse, shimmering drum line keeping time, the break has been opened by a heavy drum roll like a rock ‘n’ roll song.
What follows after all the instrumentation returns is a bass that plays a rockabilly-sounding line, coupled with be-bop sounding brass and drums, and augmented by a guitar’s protesting chords.
In some ways, “Stolen Yellow” embodies what Choi claims to want to do with jazz. However, traditional jazz fans should try to embrace what the recording has to offer. Its approach isn’t as radical as it is described. The result is a rejuvenated sound.