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‘Touchstone’ captures pianist/vocalist Ariel Pocock’s versatility

pocockAriel Pocock, 22, has received international acclaim as a captivating jazz pianist, vocalist, and composer. Recognized by notable institutions such as Downbeat, the Kobe-Seattle International Jazz Vocal Competition and the Essentially Ellington Competition at Lincoln Center, where she won both the outstanding pianist award as well as the Ella Fitzgerald Outstanding Vocalist Award.
Touchstone (Justin Time Records), Pocock’s debut album features fresh takes on classic jazz standards, original compositions, and her own arrangements of singer-songwriter material. She worked with producer Matt Pierson to compile this interesting mix of songs.  The inclusion of some of her favorite jazz standards like “Devil May Care,” “Exactly Like You,” and “Ugly Beauty” as well as some of the singer-songwriter material are a glimpse into the music Pocock loves as a musician. Although the music is diverse by category, it is tied together with the distinctive playing and vocal style that Pocock exudes.
Pocock is not the only musician that shines on Touchstone. The featured musicians include saxophonist Seamus Blake, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland.  This all-star band also helped shape the reflective and meditative feel to the album as well. Although this particular group of musicians had never played together, the communication and musical dialogue on this album is apparent from its onset. With some of the arrangements being improvised in-studio with all the musicians contributing ideas and crafting parts, it is easy to tell that all the musicians believed in communicating Pocock’s love for the songs.
On teaming with such a great lineup of musicians Pocock states in a recent news release, “Working with Larry, Eric, Julian, and Seamus was incredible. They are truly some of my favorite musicians alive today. I’ve looked up to them all for years and it was quite surreal getting the opportunity to actually record with them. I arrived at the studio on the first day with some fairly serious nerves, but after meeting the band and showing them my ideas for the recording, I was totally at ease and so excited to get started.
Above all, I genuinely love every song on this album, and I hope that the listener can feel the joy that went into this album. I wanted this album to be an honest snapshot of the music I love and where I am as a musician right now. Touchstone feels organic and introspective to me and I hope that it comes across to the listener.”
A captivating performer, Pocock has headlined many notable venues and music festivals, including Ronnie Scott’s London Club, Iowa City Jazz Festival, Elkhart Jazz Festival, Twin Cities Jazz Festival, Stanford Jazz Festival, Bellevue Jazz Festival, and in July 2015 had the opportunity to perform at the prestigious Festival International de Jazz de Montréal.
A recent graduate of the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music where she studied under the Stamps Family scholarship, Pocock is based in North Carolina where she continues to compose and maintain an active performing schedule.

Ariel Pocock / Touchstone

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arts jazz music releases United States world

Korean vocalist Youn Sun Nah draws on influences for new album

Cover.inddFemale singers who manage to stir a whole genre are seldom found. Diana Krall and Norah Jones are such outstanding talents who gave vocal jazz a whole new colour, and Korean singer Youn Sun Nah has been equally phenomenal. In the last few years, she has conquered the music world with her albums Voyage (2009) and Same Girl (2010) released on ACT Music.

Within two years, Nah had received her fourth “Korean Music Award,” the BMW World Jazz Award and the ECHO Jazz Award for best international female singer whilst in France, her second home, Same Girl was the best-selling jazz album of the year in 2011, Nah received the “Prix Mimi Perrin du Jazz Vocal” as female vocalist of the year, the leading magazine “Jazzman” awarded her with “Choc de l’annee 2012” as artist of the year and she was granted the title of nobility “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the culture secretary, putting her in the prominent company of such stars as David Bowie, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Dustin Hoffman.

What is the secret of her remarkable success? Her new album Lento (available on June 11) gives an explanation by combining Nah’s unique qualities. One of them is the blending of different cultural and musical sources, in a respectful yet unconventional manner. Besides jazz and related styles, she draws on chanson, pop and folk music, and in addition to compositions by herself and her band members, there is the extremely light version of the Korean folk song “Arirang” as well as “Hurt” by the alternative rock band Nine Inch Nails, and Stan Jones’ “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” a classic country song made famous by Johnny Cash.

For the first time Nah also calls upon European classical music: Alexander Scriabin’s “Prelude op. 16 No. 4 in E minor” with its tempo indication “Lento” was a source of inspiration for the album’s title, and it also sets up an intimate, atmospheric and harmonious musical world.  Nah unfolds her expressive power especially in the peaceful and slow-paced moments – on the fragile chanson “Full Circle,” with heartbreaking grievance on “Lament” or artistic unison singing on “Momento Magico.”

Youn Sun Nah - Kangwondo Arirang

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