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Sophie Min - SOLO VOL. 1 (2020)

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As the world continues to spend days apart, it seems an opportune time to review some solo improvisation. The past few years have seen local pianist Sophie Min become an ever-more established name in Australian jazz. Endlessly prolific, her growing catalogue boasts collaborations with some of Brisbane's most exciting players: the likes of Ben Shannon, Helen Svoboda, and Tim Green. With an orchestral project still in the pipeline, Soph has seen it fit to release curt, solo renditions of original compositions as SOLO VOL. 1.

While I've been an avid follower of Min's improvisational exploits, her playing style sits firmly straddled between the worlds of classical and jazz. GBDE's childlike innocence recalls the early Romantic period while knottier (k)numbers like Just Exploded evoke Debussy's sombre approach toward ruminative registers. It's these aspects of impressionism that see Sophie skirting the framework of her compositions, chipping away at simple refrains to colour each piece with fleeting depth.

Truth be told, I'm not usually a fan of solo improv. I listen to jazz to hear musos interact and construct ideas on the fly, which just isn't a possibility with only one player. That said, Sophie's led a dynamic mix of ensembles over the past few years, so it's interesting to hear her play without compromise. In a way, the interaction here comes between pianist and composition, presenting insular dialogue to frame previous works in a semi-improvised artistic self portrait.

If your tastes tend toward classical, however, there's really no excuse for missing Min's first proper foray into solo work. Her compositions strike a balance between considered chordal meditations and virtuosic complexity in the lane of Andrew Hill. The tape's ten tracks run a tidy half hour,  coalescing into an affecting suite of self-expression. Local artists need support now more than ever and with forecasts of a wet winter, I can't think of a Brissy release better suited for rainy days in isolation.

My review of Sophie's album Open from June 2019.

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