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Dabin Ryu: Wall

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Dabin Ryu: Wall
Photograph courtesy of the artiste

One of the most iconic poems by the American poet Robert Frost was “Mending Wall”. The first four lines of the poem read: “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,/That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,/And spills the upper boulders in the sun;/And makes gaps even two can pass abreast…” In the simple, yet brilliant metaphor of the poem Mr Frost asked some very elemental questions about humanity: Are borders necessary or regressive? Are humans naturally driven toward greater connection and cooperation, or does some old, mistrustful instinct always hold us back?

The art of music – Jazz music – and even programmatic and through-composed music such as this repertoire by the pianist Dabin Ryu never really needs to ask those questions, but musicians are often forced to confront t hem every day; some more than others with the rise of authoritarian politics globally. Miss Ryu is Korean so that metaphor must be quite real. Her answers are ensconced in this eloquently-written and performed scores recorded on Wall, itself a dark metaphor, unwrapped in music that is refracted in the light and shadow of her world view, like a life of despair and hope, sorrow and joy reflected in the shattered mirror of chopped chords and propulsive rhythms that colour dense harmonic conceptions, racing through breathtaking, zigzag melodies in this music.

On the apogee of this album – the two-part composition “Wall” Miss Ryu signals the intent of her themes and gestures by inviting the lonely voice of Anthony Marsden to wail his way through “Part I” of the piece, setting it up for the climactic “Part II”. Here Miss Ryu is joined by a complement of woodwinds and her rhythm section [names below] and the work grows more frenetic and dense as the theme unfolds in all its grand design.

Miss Ryu has written much more to create the album’s edifice on either side of “Wall” and she shows herself to be the galvanic force of the music. These are revelatory performances of breathtaking beauty and incomparable power. Most striking, perhaps, is their unforced naturalness. Never waylaid by wealth of detail and opulent texture, Miss Ryu’s harmonic conceptions are given singularity of purpose. Everything flows with the inevitability of speech, precisely articulated, direct and unmistakably sincere. Pedal is used with utmost tact, enveloping appropriate passages [throughout] in a shimmering aura that serves to heighten contour and colour.

This must surely be the inspiration for the rest of the musicians who are, of course, fully attuned to the pianist’s vision and artistry. No wonder that they turn in magnificent performances throughout the masterfully composed and staged music on this album.

Track list – 1: The Light; 2: I’ll Never Know; 3: Temple Run; 4: Wall [Part I]; 5: Wall [Part II}; 6: Moon; 7: Stillborn; 8: Suspicion; 9: Taxi Driver; 10: We Will Meet Again

Personnel – Dabin Ryu: piano; Fernando Ferrarone: trumpet [1, 3]; Jack Kotze: trombone [1, 3]; Nathan See: alto saxophone [1, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10]; Zoe Obadia: alto saxophone [8, 10]; Boyce Griffith: tenor saxophone [1, 3, 5, 8]; Jarod Apple: baritone saxophone [1, 3, 5, 8]; Kevin Scollins: guitar [1, 2, 5]; Benjamin Young: bass [1 – 3, 5, 6, 8 – 10]; Willis Edmundson: drums [1 – 3, 5, 6, 8 – 10]; Anthony Marsden: voice [4]

Released – 2021
Label – Independent
Runtime – 55:33

Raul da Gama is a poet and essayist. He has published three collections of poetry, He studied at Trinity College of Music, London specialising in theory and piano, and he has a Masters in The Classics. He is an accomplished critic whose profound analysis is reinforced by his deep technical and historical understanding of music and literature.

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