Primary Instrument: Piano
FRESH SOUND RECORDS RELEASES BLACKOUT CONCEPTION, JAZZ PIANIST/COMPOSER JOHN CHIN’S DEBUT ALBUM
*Acoustic post-bop recording features Mark Turner on tenor sax, Alexis Cuadrado or Chris Higgins on upright bass and Bill Campbell on drums*
Fresh Sound/New Talent Records announces the January 15, 2008 release of John Chin’s debut album, Blackout Conception, a highly melodic effort that underscores the Brooklyn resident’s talents as not only an acoustic pianist, but also, as a producer (Chin produced Blackout Conception with bassist Alexis Cuadrado), group leader and composer. Three of the seven tracks on Blackout Conception are Chin originals: the dusky title track, the melancholy “I Won’t Argue with You” and the contemplative “After Crash.” Other highlights of the album, which illustrates the warm and lyrical nature of Chin’s pianism, include the improviser’s thoughtful interpretations of Leonard Bernstein’s “Some Other Time,” Billy Strayhorn’s “Passion Flower” and two pieces by veteran pianist Kenny Barron: “Lullaby” and “Joanne Julia.” Jordi Pujol, president of Barcelona-based Fresh Sound, serves as Blackout Conception’s executive producer.
One of Chin’s strongest pianistic influences on Blackout Conception is his mentor Barron, who he studied with extensively at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “Lullaby” and “Joanne Julia” are both compositions that Chin learned from Barron, who also taught him the timeless Strayhorn standard “Passion Flower.” The 31-year-old Chin asserts: “Kenny is a living legend, and I wanted to do two of his songs because I respect him so much as a musician and as a person. I learned a lot from Kenny.”
Chin’s Brazilian-influenced arrangement of “Joanne Julia” came about as a result of listening to a lot of recordings by Brazilian great Caetano Veloso. Meanwhile, Blackout Conception’s title track was inspired by the East Coast blackout of 2003. Chin recalls: “I was in New Jersey when the blackout happenedand coming back from Jersey, I had never seen anything like it. Manhattan was pretty dim, but there was this camaraderie happening in the streets.”
Chin, who has been a fixture on the New York City jazz scene since the late 1990s, was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1976 and grew up in Los Angeles, where he began studying classical piano at the age of four and discovered jazz when he was in his early teens. When he was just 14, Chin entered California State University, Los Angeles as a pre-med student; by the age of 15, after studying jazz piano and playing in some jazz ensembles, he changed his major to music.
Chin's decision to pursue a career as a jazz musician was initially met with strong reservations by his parents. My parents worked very hard to become successful, Chin explains, and it was a shock to them when I wanted to become a jazz musician. They were worried about how unstable a career in music can be. But I persevered and did what I had to do. Something about jazz always spoke to me.
Chin graduated from Cal State L.A. with a BA in music when he was 19. He then attended the University of North Texas; eventually, he moved to the East Coast to study with Barron at Rutgers University, where he earned a masters degree in music in 1999. Rutgers immediately made Chin one of the college's youngest faculty members. Since his arrival on the East Coast, Chin has performed with a long list of well respected musicians, including vocalist Norah Jones, drummer/pianist Joe Chambers, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring, tenor saxophonist Joel Frahm, tenor/soprano saxophonist Donny McCaslin and drummer Gregory Hutchinson.
Chin brings a variety of pianistic influences to Blackout Conception, ranging from Oscar Peterson to McCoy Tyner to Bill Evans. But Chin stresses that not all of his influences are pianists; he also describes the iconic trumpeter Miles Davis as a “huge influence,” adding, “Musically, Miles is first on my list as far as influences, and pianistically, I was influenced by so many of the musicians who came out of his bands Wynton Kelly, Red Garland, Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett. The way that Miles let his guys play and express themselves as individuals within his band is something I try to do with the musicians who play with me. I find that the best stuff happens when you let guys be themselves.”
On Blackout Conception, Chin enjoys a consistently strong rapport with all of his sidemen, including Campbell, who he has known since his days at the University of North Texas, and bassists Cuadrado and Higgins, both of whom he met through Campbell. And Chin has nothing but praise for Turner, who he has played with extensively. “Mark Turner, to me, is one of the greats,” Chin comments. “There is so much depth, focus and clarity in Mark’s playing.”
Although Chin plays the acoustic piano exclusively on the straight-ahead Blackout Conception, he is also fluent on electric keyboards and intends to play them on future albums. Chin, whose taste in music ranges from Bela Bartok to Radiohead to Ray Charles, remains open to trying different things in the future, but jazz, he emphasizes, will remain his primary direction.
“It was really a struggle for me to pursue jazz as a career,” Chin asserts, “but I’m glad that I did.” And Chin’s passion for jazz is very much in evidence throughout this impressive debut album.
George W. Carroll -ejazznews.com - Blackout Conception
Smart, introspective piano man that knows how to work as a member of an ensemble even though he’s the leader of the date. With a feathery, Bill Evans kind of touch, Chin chases those metaphoric elusive butterflies through the windmills of your mind with a low key but very memorable result.
-MidwestRecord.com Review - Blackout Conception
Jazzreview dot com Review - Blackout Conception by Susan Frances
Pianist John Chin is a straight-ahead jazz musician who will get your toes tapping to his upbeat sprints and lull you off into dreamland with his misty tonics. The improvisations cording the piano and saxophone locks create lengthy manes with a warm sonorous. For instance, the cocktail jazz fumes of Joanne Julia, which is a composition that Chin learned from his mentor Kenny Barron, are elegantly furled with gorgeous saxophone lances crowning the sonic emulsion. The chord segments are crimped, tangled and lengthened to the melody’s specifications. The stellar piano trails of I Won’t Argue With You burn softly and wrap the melody with majestic aureoles. The track is an original composition by Chin and displays his ability to create lustrous arbors with the piano keys.
The habitat of flapping keys and sliding notes for the title track, another original piece by Chin, weathers the rocky swells and lively chord interaction. The soft simmer of After Crash, an original track by Chin, is socket with swift saxophone whisks causing a chain of commotion in the piano keys. The wispy drifts of Chin’s rendition of Leonard Bernstein’s piece Some Other Time is draped in smooth gospel-toned piano ringlets as the bass grooves supply a pillow of low-keyed floorboards. The circling saxophone sonnets of Lullaby, a track which Chin learned to play by Barron, are pronged by comfortable classic jazz phrasings, as too are the coasting piano sequences framed by languid rhythms sheeting Passion Flower, a tune written by Billy Strayhorn.
Like a tap dancer who stays in step with the music, John Chin is in tune with the melody’s persona. Chin avails himself to the freedom that causes straight-ahead jazz movements to sound luminous. The music is stately, presidential in stature and has a diet that includes improvised piano and saxophone montages. Produced by Chin and his bass player Alexis Cuadrado, Blackout Conception is a delightful walk along classic jazz’s bayou.
Jazz Society of Oregon Review - Blackout Conception by Kyle O’Brien
A sense of melody is still highly important in the jazz world, and this debut album by Brooklynite Chin shows that melody can be had while putting forth a modern sound that is comforting yet contemporary. As arranger, player, composer and bandleader, Chin is accomplished. His dual roles allow him freedom but he never gets in the way of the song or the melody. The Brazilian arrangement of Joanne Julia is propelled by Chin’s pulsating piano but led by Mark Turner’s flowing saxophone. Chin is an adept soloist, which he learned from the great Kenny Barron. Chin pays and plays tribute to Barron, with two of these tracks, including the waltzing Lullaby, which he treats tenderly but with enough oomph to make it interesting. Chin is a promising talent as both an arranger and bandleader, provided he sticks to his great sense of melody as a guiding force.
Nashville City Paper Review - Blackout Conception by Ron Wynn
Pianist John Chin plays with confidence and authority on Blackout Conception (Fresh Sounds), a new release that includes three stellar trio pieces and four other numbers with superb tenor saxophonist Mark Turner’s thrusts, statements and carefully developed solos adding an extra and memorable voice to the setting.
Chin capably develops the central melody on Kenny Barron’s Lullaby and Billy Strayhorn’s Passion Flower before zipping out to develop his own lines and direction. He makes his mark within the pieces in steady, resourceful fashion, while bassists Alexis Cuadrado or Chris Higgins (Joanne Julia and Some Other Time) team with drummer Bill Campbell in steadily following his course, complimenting his shifts and reuniting with him during the final choruses.
It is well-played, first-rate mainstream material, with enough surprises included to keep listeners attentive throughout each piece.
Bagatellen dot com Review - Blackout Conception by Derek Taylor Postbop is about as nebulous a genre tag available, yet writers (myself included) continue to use it as a convenient categorization device. From Geri Allen to Denny Zeitlin, its pervasiveness is directly proportional to the ease of its application. With parameters that bend without much resistance the I know it when I hear it adage often applies. Pianist John Chin’s new disc certainly slots within the overused/underdefined rubric, but what’s most surprising is how seamlessly it fits. Subjectively speaking, the music epitomizes my conception of the genre, almost uncannily so.
Chin’s keyboard style is assertive and polished, suggesting strong ties to the populous and popular Evans school. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner is a practically a poster child of postbop, and consequently his presence on four cuts makes perfect sense. Bassist Alexis Cuadrado handles all but two of the pieces, leaving those to his understudy Chris Higgins. Drummer Bill Campbell completes the quartet. Chin’s taste in borrowed tunes passes muster with entries from the songbooks of Strayhorn and Kenny Barron, the latter another noticeable influence. He likes to stretch out, which occasionally leads to stretching thin as on the rhythmically boxed in Barron number Joanne Julia. The ballad I Won’t Argue With You is comparably discursive, but Chin’s emotion-rich left hand chords and Campbell’s whisking brushes bring a heightened degree of feeling.
Radio, water jug, candle and canned goods- all are items handy in the event of the disc’s titular event. Chin includes piano keys in his personal list of essentials and considering the level of commitment to the instrument heard here, his reasoning is clear. His website makes mention of electronics and a Rhodes track on his MySpace page further hints at other avenues of expression. The presence of either on this session could have served as a source of welcome variance to a program that already feels convention-prone. Difficult to champion, but also hard to decry, the album is my new litmus for applying the postbop tag to others. Perhaps inadvertently, Chin has assembled a useful tool for writers and listeners alike in salvaging the belabored descriptor from the scrap heap of inconsequence.
Irish Times Review - Blackout Conception by RAY COMISKEY
Chin is a youngish, bop-flavoured pianist with a swinging, melodic style and an unambiguously full sound. It serves him well on the inventive trio treatments of Bernstein’s Some Other Time and the dissonant chording of his own I Won’t Argue With You, but the delicacy of Strayhorn’s Passion Flower is lost to an otherwise attractive swinging medium tempo. A big plus is the presence of tenor saxophonist Mark Turner on the remaining four pieces. Although Chin tends to comp rather emphatically behind a soloist, Turner is such a strong, mature performer that he can deal with it. The best moments occur when he’s around; he is brilliant on Kenny Barron’s Lullaby and perhaps finest of all on Chin’s lovely, if mournful, After Crash, where his flowing, fluent and lyrical solo is a highlight of an enjoyable album. *** (3 Stars)
All Music Guide Review - Blackout Conception Review by Michael G. Nastos
Another pianist from the Fresh Sound/New Talent stable of emerging jazz artists, John Chin has produced a fine debut CD emphasizing modern mainstream jazz, splitting time between interpreting music written by others and composing original material. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, grew up in Los Angeles, studied music at North Texas State and Rutgers Universities, and as of this debut effort resides in Brooklyn. Chin is a fine musician, with a good amount of wit, charm, literacy, and solid musicianship. As with many contemporary jazz pianists, he comes out of the post-Bill Evans school, in tune with such recent contemporaries as Kenny Kirkland, Joey Calderazzo, and Frank Kimbrough, but his most telling influence is that of virtuoso Kenny Barron. Two tracks are lesser-known Barron compositions, the pretty and pristine waltz Lullaby and a deliberate, modified funky New Orleans shuffle titled Joanne Julia, both featuring the easygoing and lyrical tenor sax work of Mark Turner in quartet settings. Turner's quite pleasant and unfettered sound is also present on the title track, a spirit waltz with a contradictory title, and the slow drifting After Crash. Chin leads a trio without Turner for a well-rendered and reinvented, loping take on the standard Some Other Time, the slow ballad Passion Flower (which is clearly a Chin favorite), and another spirit ballad, I Won't Argue with You. The title of this recording might scare listeners, but shouldn't. This is a thoughtful, intelligent, enjoyable date that marks Chin's future as a developing artist, and aligns him with peers such as Aaron Goldberg, Aaron Parks, Bryn Roberts, George Colligan, Toru Dodo, Robert Glasper, and Danny Grissett.
Willing to teach:
Advanced students only.