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New York bassist Linda May Han Oh achieves a new level of confidence with Walk Against Wind 

click to enlarge Linda May Han Oh

Linda May Han Oh

Shervin Lainez

Also known as Linda Oh, bassist Linda May Han Oh chose to use her full name with the release of her strong new album Walk Against Wind (Biophilia). (The New York-based musician was born in Malaysia and grew up in Australia, where she was given the name Linda to help her assimilate.) I’m not sure why she decided to make the change now, but I’d venture it’s in part because she’s never been more assured in her musicianship and imagination as a composer, here crafting a sleek collection of probing postbop with a first-class band of cohorts. Oh drew on clear-cut images and ideas to inspire her pieces, from the metaphorical title track (inspired by “Walking Against the Wind,” the famous piece by mime Marcel Marceau) to “Speech Impediment,” where she conveys the struggle of a man with a stutter to declare his love, the knotty, rubato rhythmic pattern of her own wordless singing giving empathetic sound to the effort. Oh alternates between double bass and electric bass, just as her tunes move between elaborate groove-oriented jams and smoldering lyric workouts, all brought to life with a resourceful band that includes Kneebody reedist Ben Wendel, guitarist Matthew Stevens—a regular collaborator of both Esperanza Spalding and Christian Scott—and drummer Justin Brown, a percussionist who masterfully chops up time into fractal patterns without ever surrendering his sure-handed grip on the pulse. Oh is at the forefront of New York’s current jazz mainstream, translating new ideas into a familiar language, but she’s never sounded so bold and adventurous. Here’s hoping that head of steam continues to build. For tonight’s concert Eric Doob subs for Brown.   v

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