"With its chamber-like woodwind textures, involved harmony and sectional counterpoint, and persistent rhythmic drive, Lee's music fits comfortably within a resurgent large-ensemble format whose exponents include Maria Schneider, John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, and Andrew Rathbun. But Lee also imbues her compositions with han, an ineffable sadness that serves as a dramatic element in much Korean art - compare the Brazilian saudade or American blues." - David Adler, Village Voice
"Lee certainly embraced that richness on her remarkable debut, which is redolent of the coloristic bravura of the Maria Schneider Orchestra and the narrative complexity of Jim McNeely's arrangement." ㅡ Shaun Brady, Jazziz
Four stars: "...a musical triumph born of an unspeakable tragedy, thought-provoking and gut-wrenching all at once. The music sings, sobs, and soars in its unfolding, leaving the listener with a carefully-crafted reflection on the event(s) and a glimpse into Lee's emotional core....April is simply unforgettable." - Dan Bilawsky, All About Jazz
"Not your typical big band music It's very original, very beautiful, and very well thought-out, well orchestrated music." - Greg Hopkins
"Jihye Lee is emerging as a strong voice in the next generation of composers for large jazz ensemble. Her music is imaginative and creative, and she's not afraid to take some exciting chances in her writing." - Jim McNeely
"April is the cruellest month..." - T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
April is co-produced by renowned composer and trumpet player Greg Hopkins, professor of Jazz Composition at Berklee, who is also a featured soloist. The orchestra's personnel are primarily Berklee faculty, including trumpeter Sean Jones and drummer Mark Walker.
This first album of orchestral works came to fruition rather miraculously, as it was entirely funded by donations from music lovers around the world using Kickstarter.
April was composed in response to the mysterious, yet poignant wreck, on 16 April 2014, of the Korean ferry Sewol, which sank en route from Incheon to Jeju, claiming the lives of 304 innocent passengers, most of whom were teenage children. This horrific and, for some, controversial event shocked the entire country, leaving its people haunted in the wake of this senseless tragedy. I had composed April Wind and Deep Blue Sea shortly before, and my apartment number was also 304; it was very strong coincidence giving me more conviction to bring April to life.
The opening piece April Wind sings to you like a warm breeze. The melody is lyrical, but the harmonies are constantly shifting to take you on a journey to unknown places, riding the wind. It is a calm before the storm and welcomes you to the story of April.
Sewol Ho continues this to the theme of the music with staggering bass line, crashing screaming harmony, and the jumping melody show a state of panic. The beautiful, almost playful, section in the middle of the story is elegy for victims.
Deep Blue Sea captures the movement of the water's dance, serene waves at night and majestic whirlpool underneath the deep sea. Although composed before the ferry actually sank, it turned out to be a song of the sea singing while holding Sewol Ho in its arms; you will hear the story the sea tells.
Whirlwind was written when I was being swept away by all the craziness I had in my life. I was lost, and overwhelmed. When life is too much to handle, you are restless. I hoped that the calm middle 'eye of the storm' was the shelter I was seeking for my worn soul.
After Sewol incident, I was in pain realizing there was nothing I could do, feeling Guilty at the sacrifice of innocents. I had vision of snakes tempting for greed; I saw someone walking for execution; I heard a strong heartbeat. I expressed all of these in my music.
The last piece You Are Here (Every Time I Think of You) reminds us that whenever we think of loved ones who vanished for any reason, we find them still right next to us. Sean Jones' flugelhorn lament evokes great melancholy, a yearning for what has been lost. I hope it brings beautifully shared memories consoling us with mourning smiles.
The music presented here echoes the yin-yang of human emotions. April reflects not only the misfortunate recounting of this catastrophe, but seeks to offer hope. In the context of this disaster, the month of April may certainly conjure feelings of anguish and despair, yet when viewed as part of the natural cycle, it is the month of life emerging.