Seulah Noh Jazz Orchestra, NOhMAD Review
Journey Through Soundscapes: Seulah Noh’s Odyssey in NOhMAD
By Ferell Aubre
Seulah Noh’s journey from a classical pianist to a jazz composer and conductor is a tale of transformation and exploration. With her debut album, NOhMAD, Noh invites us into her world, a fusion of her past experiences and present artistic endeavors. The album, seven original compositions, and two arrangements reflect her journey across continents and musical genres.
“L’illusionniste” (feat. Song Yi Jeon) opens the album with a rubato introduction; this track immediately sets a mood of introspection and grace. The warm, wordless vocals of Song Yi Jeon, coupled with a straight eight feel, lay the foundation for an emotionally evocative journey. The composition showcases Noh’s ability to blend the textures reminiscent of Pat Metheny’s modern jazz with the layered sophistication of Maria Schneider’s big band sound, yet it stands out as uniquely her own. Nathan See’s alto saxophone solo is a standout, soaring over the lush orchestrations provided by the ensemble.
“Hear the Light” (feat. Astghik Martirosyan) A rhythmic motif, established by Willis Edmundson’s shaker and bass drum, creates an atmospheric soundscape. Astghik Martirosyan’s wordless vocals are the focal point, around which the ensemble weaves a kaleidoscope of sound colors. Noh’s expertise in balancing different sections and creating counterpoints shines through. The transition into a funkier groove for Ian Buss’ tenor saxophone solo is seamless, complementing the exotic harmonic progressions. This piece demonstrates Noh’s mastery in orchestrating climactic moments that are emotionally potent and musically rich.
Adding a string quartet in the three-part “Traveler’s Suite” adds a new dimension to the album. “Sail at Dawn” begins with the strings setting an anticipatory tone, gradually joined by a rhythmic guitar pattern and bass theme. The ensemble’s handling of dynamics and balance is exemplary, creating a vivid auditory journey. Buss’ solo is a narrative in itself, perfectly interwoven with Noh’s expansive chords and thematic material. The final section, with its poignant string writing, demonstrates Noh’s ability to evoke deep emotions through her compositions.
NOhMAD is Seulah Noh sharing her gift of combining modern jazz with classical and world overtones to build a compelling musical and personal landscape through the nine tracks. Her ability to blend different genres and cultures into a cohesive, emotionally resonant whole makes her one to watch. The album successfully showcases her talents as a composer and arranger and highlights the impressive musicianship of her ensemble. Noh’s NOhMAD is a bold statement that symbolizes jazz’s ever-evolving nature and its boundless possibilities.