On her follow-up album, Initial Here, bassist/composer Linda Oh draws deeply upon her rich cultural heritage and broad range of inspirations to further define her musical autobiography.
“This album tells a story about identity,” Oh said in a news release. “Cultural identity and musical identity. I wanted to go in a few different directions to explore some more extreme emotions.”
Born in Malaysia to Chinese parents and raised in Western Australia, Oh arrived in New York five years ago with a love of jazz, early training in classical bassoon, and an adolescence spent playing electric bass in Aussie rock bands. All of that experience surfaces on Initial Here, from the in-the-tradition ballad playing on “Mr. M” to her buoyant electric basslines on “Deeper than Happy” and the mournful bassoon woven throughout “Thicker than Water.”
The quartet that Oh assembled to realize this eclectic blend of material in Initial Here are all equally adept at integrating diverse influences. Dayna Stephens is a graduate of both Berklee College of Music and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz and is also a skilled bassist in his own right. Cuban-born pianist Fabian Almazan was a classmate of Oh’s at the Manhattan School of Music, where the two quickly formed a musical bond; Oh continues to perform in Almazan’s thrilling trio. And Rudy Royston has become the drummer of choice for artists as diverse as powerhouse saxophonist JD Allen, groundbreaking guitarist Bill Frisell, and forward-thinking bassist Ben Allison.
Family emerges as a major theme on Initial Here. A trip to Malaysia and China to visit long-unseen relatives made an enormous impact on the compositions for the album. It was Oh’s first trip to either country as an adult, and only her second time back in Malaysia since her family relocated to Australia when she was three years old.
“It was an eye-opening trip,” she said. “It was nice to go as an adult and to hear the more personal stories that people never would talk about when you were a kid. And we visited Penang, Malaysia, where my great-grandfather was an artist and sculpted a temple. That was really inspiring to see.”
Initial Here will be released on May 22, 2012, on Greenleaf Music/eOne Distribution.