Notable jazz albums
from Linda May Han Oh and Sexmob in stores today, 4/14

It’s unusual for me to have two albums to recommend with the same release date, so I’ve decided to group them together in one feature. Linda May Han Oh’s Walk Against Wind and Sexmob’s Cultural Capital are on store shelves today.

Linda May Han Oh is a stellar bassist and on her fourth album she has surrounded herself with a superb band—saxophonist Ben Wendel, guitarist Matthew Stevens, and drummer Justin Brown. Stevens’ work will be familiar to New Orleans readers due to his musical association with Christian Scott.

In addition, keyboardist Fabian Almazan and Korean traditional musician Minji Park appear as special guests with the quartet. Almazan is also a familiar face in these parts due to his work with Terence Blanchard.

Though Oh is best known as an upright bass player, she takes up the electric bass on one of my favorite tunes on the album. “Perpuzzle” has a winding, instantly compelling melody line. It also features Oh wordlessly vocalizing in a style reminiscent of Lionel Loueke.

The band plays hard and fast with texture on certain songs and other cuts are beautifully evocative. “Mother Reason” flows with elegant grace. While “Walk Against Wind,” which was inspired by the great mime Marcel Marceau’s signature work, sounds like someone struggling in a gale as Stevens and Oh play step-like intervals.

Sexmob’s Cultural Capital is the latest work from slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein. His name may be familiar to New Orleans readers because he recently played at Jazz Fest with our own Henry Butler.

Sexmob, which also features Briggan Krauss on saxophones, Tony Scherr on bass, and Kenny Wollesen on drums, has been around for over twenty years. Their music has been variously described as innovative, subversive, and irreverent. But to my ears, their biggest hallmark, at least on this collection of all original music from the pen of Bernstein, is humor.

The slide trumpet is an unusual instrument and, like it’s cousin the trombone, it allows the musician to essentially sing through the horn. Bernstein said, “When you play the trumpet, Louis Armstrong is the king. But when I play the slide trumpet, I’m the king. It’s my voice. On trumpet, there’s no escaping Armstrong and Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Lester Bowie…all those cats. But on slide trumpet, it’s just me.”

He explained how his compositional style works with his long running ensemble, “Some of the tunes, like ‘Bari Si,’ ‘Step Apache,’ and ‘Syrup’ are through-composed like Jelly Roll Morton pieces. And some like ‘4 Cents’ and ‘Street’ and are more jammy, where we take a little idea—a line or a groove—and just develop it.”

Though there are significant differences between the style and sound of both of these albums, they share a few notable things—strong compositions from established leaders, great interplay between the musicians, and excellent production work.

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