Opera House, Wellington
Saturday, June 10 (4pm)
A new Korean-Kiwi World-Orchestra Jazz genre was invented on Saturday. And that was indeed part of the aim of this pairing between Wellington jazz ensemble The Jac and Korea’s Black String. Both bands operate in and of themselves – The Jac a local nonet with not one but two terrific albums of mostly original compositions and Black String, a Korean quartet featuring Yoon Jeung Heo on the geomungo (Korean zither), Jean Oh on electric guitar, Min Wang Hwang on percussion (janggu – Korean drum) and Aram Lee on daegeum (bamboo flute).
It was stunning. Right from the opening number. Guitarist Callum Allardice and alto saxophonist Jake Baxendale were responsible for the majority of The Jac’s compositions, writing for the double-ensemble also. But you could never quite know what was going to happen, some pieces starting with the pulse and swing of jazz, others emerging beneath the gentle thrum of the geomungo’s bass notes and the ceremonial drumming of Min Wang Hwang.
And just as you longed to hear Black String on their own – just because it was an
interesting ensemble, instrumentation-wise – the members of The Jac downed tools and allowed Black String to captivate with one of their longer pieces, just the Korean quartet issuing the sounds. An in their music there were wonderful, Western incongruities, Jean Oh’s guitar tone a dead-ringer for Jeff Beck’s as he rode the whammy bar throughout, Aram Lee almost beatboxing through his flute at one point, the parps and breathing more about rhythm than melody at one point.
In fact all four of the Korean musicians were expert at moving between conveying rhythm and melody, their instruments dual weapons.
When The Jac returned to the stage the energy lifted even further. And the integration was seamless as The Jac’s drummer Shaun Anderson sat in behind during Min Wang Hwang’s lengthy percussion break. There was a real feeling of joy, of thought, of cultural exchange – we could see the musicians beaming across the stage at one another (the two drummers particularly).