Kim Suk Chul

Final Say

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At the time of this recording, Kim Seok Chul was in his mid-seventies and had been recognized as the "82nd valuable intangible cultural asset of the Republic of Korea." He achieved this honor as a musician wielding the hojok, a double-reed instrument of immense power that sounds, essentially, like an industrial-strength shenai, producing riveting squalls of sound. Samples of performances of his were used by Otomo Yoshihide as a fundamental framework for Ground Zero's masterpiece, Consume Red. Although his renown was based on his interpretations of traditional songs, for the first two tracks on Final Say he teamed up with several jazz saxophonists in a session that mixes improvisations with loose renditions of music from the Korean tradition. As capable as these musicians are (including Carla Bley alumnus Wolfgang Puschnig and Japanese wild man Kazutoki Umezu), it's fairly clear that Kim is operating on another level. While they often resort to Coltrane-esque patterns or attempt to follow in his footsteps, Kim resolutely plays the hojok as if alone in the world, a keening cry as desolate as a rocky tor, as rich as a river. Though one would have to judge the results as failed experiments, simply hearing the jazz musicians trying to keep up with this elderly Korean gentleman is worth it. The final three pieces capture Kim in more of his own element, accompanied by a single percussionist, a quartet of same or, via multi-tracking, himself -- and the music is sublime. At once not of this world and grounded in a very earthy manner, Kim's music sounds like little else; if Coltrane had grown up in Korea, he might have sounded like this. Recommended.

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