Kin trio is a Portland based trio started in by Sunjae Lee, a student of natural medicine at the National College of Natural Medicine. Sunjae’s compositions combine his background in bebop with his love for meditation, hence the title, minimalist bebop. Sunjae, Andre, and Tim began playing in 2010 and immediately felt a kinship, all being drawn towards a more dynamic interplay of improvisation as well as being interested in meditation and the pursuit of good health.
Sunjae Lee – soprano, alto, and tenor sax
Andre St. James – bass
Tim DuRoche – drums
All About Jazz, 5/31/13:
The Kin Trio—saxophonist Sunjae Lee, bassist Andre St. James, drummer Tim DuRoche—call what they do “minimalist bebop.” An apparent oxymoron, given that bebop has such maximalist tendencies (exhibit A is trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s dizzying “Bebop”).
They don’t mean to be taken so literally, of course. The Kin-men have ably absorbed the sparer offshoots of the bebop impulse—like alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and baritone saxophonistGerry Mulligan, swinging in an understated way in a similarly piano-less setting on Two of a Mind (RCA Victor, 1962), most clearly recalled on the new album’s title cut. Or, to take a more recent example, saxophonist Jessica Jones and French horn playerMark Taylor’s marvelous Live at the Freight (New Artist, 2012), whose post-free jazz beauty is reflected in Breathe‘s “I Hear A Singing Bowl.”
Lee’s voice is particularly central to the Kin Trio. Certain of the abiding concerns of his earlier records, all released under the name Eugene Lee on the Pure Potentiality label, surface onBreathe. Chief among these is jazz’s conception of collective action as one form of freedom, an important component of the ensemble numbers on Lee’s Srivbanacore (2007). In this pursuit of freedom, the Kin Trio stakes out broad stylistic and temperamental terrain. These guys can evoke the cool Desmond and Mulligan; “Nevele,” meanwhile, is rendered in the spirit of multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy.
Another concern from Lee’s earlier records is the process of meditation as a spiritual discipline.Meditations (2008) depicted more or less literally the turmoil of the mind not at rest, whileequilibrium (2009) focused more subtly on the objects of concentration, like a rainstorm. OnBreathe, “Jing Chi Shen” continues these solo excursions, outside bebop altogether. What is apparently solo saxophone sustains a single note through slight timbral changes and effects, sustaining meditative interest for several minutes (like saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell); when a new note is struck well into the performance, it’s jarring.
More striking than the continuity with Lee’s rigorous previous work, however, is how the trio sound differs from the earlier records, hewing more closely to familiar jazz conventions.
And it all ends with a lovely reading of Michael Jackson’s favorite song, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.” Lee’s soulful solo is particularly in the tradition here, nimbly dancing around St. James’ stolid bass notes.
– Jeff Dayton-Johnson