Primary Instrument: Band/orchestra
Choi and Sacks are not the typical duo, declared AllAboutJazz-New York's Andrey Henkin after a recent live performance at Manhattan's intimate 5C Café. Choi effortlessly mixes traditional jazz vocals with a sultrier approach or the gymnastics of the avant garde. Sacks never plays the straight man, abstracting the melodies enough to keep each turn interesting. Contrary to normal course, Choi relies on Sacks' percolations as much as Sacks follows Choi's lead.
Critics have also noted she's an assured, maverick musical spirit whose risk- taking pays off (Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen) and his playing is pruned of cliché, dedicated instead to finding the right cluster or dissonance to allow the music to resonate (David Dupont, Cadence).
Ms. Choi, a native of Toronto, is a performer, composer and educator who has lived and worked in New York since 2000. Since that time she has worked with such internationally renowned musicians as Cameron Brown, Steve Coleman, Mark Dresser, Joe Maneri and Kenny Werner. A classically trained pianist turned vocalist, her eclectic résumé also includes projects ranging from jazz opera to improvised music theater to microtonal vocal music. In addition to her eight year-old duo with Sacks, she currently leads/co-leads 4inObjects, The E-String Band, The Restless Spirits and The Joe Raposo Project.
A 1999 Thelonious Monk Competition finalist and former Presidential Scholar in the Arts, Sacks is a pianist who has performed with Terumasa Hino, the Mingus Big Band, Tony Malaby, Ben Monder, Angelica Sanchez and Matt Wilson among many others. His most recent release is 2007's Two Miles A Day (Yeah Yeah Records/Loyal Label), featuring Mat Maneri, Paul Motian and Eivind Opsvik, which The Wire's Philip Clark called an enjoyable record, an important one even. AllAboutJazz.com's Troy Collins added, The tunes ripple with emotional resonance, conveyed with both empathetic finesse and vivacious zeal...Two Miles A Day presents multi-generational jazz at its most inspired.
The duo's second and latest CD, Imagination (Yeah Yeah Records), is an innovative tribute to the music of prolific theater, film and television composer, Joe Raposo (1937-1989). Nearly 30 years after first hearing his seminal music on the classic children's programs, The Electric Company, The Muppet Show and Sesame Street, this longstanding jazz duo uses timeless and instantly familiar songs such as Bein' Green and Sing as launching pads for experiments in texture, form and improvisation.
--Peter Hum, Ottawa Citizen
Choi and Sacks work so well together in their own charming, but somewhat
weird, way that they turn this tribute to composer Joe
Raposo into much more than a celebration of his music...these
songs, many of which suckled the children of the ‘70s, are explored in ways
previously unimagined. Choi has magnificent vocal command of a variety of
styles and within this intimate context she scats, sings the blues and postures
as a faux Broadway diva. She jousts with and complements Sacks as he serves
as both accompanist and timekeeper, changing tempo midstream and
improvising off Choi’s intriguing
phrasing. Choi and Sacks clearly have fun mutating rhythms and playing with
the phrasing but the songs’ serious sides are also expanded upon and
revealed...[they] have dressed these children’s classics in
adult clothes and the fit is near perfect.
--Elliott Simon, All About Jazz
The most striking track on the album is “Bein’ Green” which, in its original
incarnation, was Kermit’s
protest ballad about green pigmentation that makes frogs “blend in with so
many ordinary things”.
Choi’s deadpan delivery of the whimsical lyric is underpinned by a dense
carpet of chromatic harmony,
and the tune inhabits unexpectedly disturbing dimensions as the dislocation
between voice and piano
symbolises a profound sense of isolation.
--Philip Clark, The Wire
What Choi and Sacks give to his music is a challenging edge that harkens
back to both the bop tradition and the exploratory nature of modern creative
expressionism. Choi's pretty voice is as flexible an instrument as you might
hear in contemporary jazz...easily able to scat, contort phrases, or offer witty
repartee. Sacks is a different kind of piano accompanist, part Bill Evans,
McCoy Tyner and Misha Mengelberg. This is certainly an intriguing project,
not conventional as Raposo's music might be categorized, and a wondrous
collection transmuting his songs in a way the composer might have not
imagined, but definitely would approve.
--Michael G. Nastos, All Music Guide
Yoon Sun Choi and pianist Jacob Sacks give tribute to composer Joe Raposo
sophisticated reworking of the memorable melodies and lyrics that many of
us first heard on children’s
shows like The Electric Company and Sesame
Street. The duo stays in only
enough for us to recognize the tune before taking it out to the extremities of
imaginations, leaving us with grown-up versions of the songs that inspired
our childhood dreams. Not
the Ernie and Bert you thought you knew.
--Suzanne Lorge, All About Jazz