On their debut album, “Breathe,” Kin Trio explores a spacious, mindful aesthetic with vigor, subtlety and grace. Band members Sunjae Lee (saxophones), Andre St. James (double bass) and Tim DuRoche (drums) felt an immediate kinship during their first playing encounter. While each of the individuals involved boast extensive credentials as bandleaders, sidemen, and arts administrators, the members of Kin Trio resonate with one another both as improvising musicians and as fellow practitioners of meditation and good health.
The band’s unique style of “minimalist bebop” combines these diverse cultural, physical, and spiritual interests with the traditional jazz approach to improvising over standard song forms. The album consists mostly of material composed by bandleader and reed player
Sunjae Lee. “Echolalia” tips the hat to the jazz tradition with its use of the now ubiquitous chord progression from “I Got Rhythm” while simultaneously touching on Sunjae’s broader interests: the tune is based on a pathological condition which causes somebody to compulsively repeat a word or phrase, which Sunjae further relates to the practice in meditation of repeating a mantra many, many times.
“Jing Qi Chen” is a beautiful solo saxophone arrangement of the standard tune “Body and Soul.” The source material has been deconstructed extensively, leaving a spacious, open meditation on some melodic fragments of the original standard. “Lunar” is a composition based on the changes from the popular jazz standard “Solar.” While Solar is typically played in jam sessions with great energy and competitively high note density, “Lunar” evokes the more sensitive, feminine yin to this rather aggressive yiang. There are two covers on the record. Sonny King’s “Nevele” is a lithe and angular melody reminiscent of the late sixties acoustic free jazz explosion. A tender, heartfelt rendition of Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” brings the album to a close on a sweet, delicate note.
Sunjae Lee – soprano, alto, and tenor sax
Andre St. James – bass
Tim DuRoche – drums
All About Jazz, 5/31/13:
The Kin Trio—saxophonist Sunjae Lee, bassist Andre St. James, drummer Tim DuRoche—call what they do “minimalist bebop.” An apparent oxymoron, given that bebop has such maximalist tendencies (exhibit A is trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie’s dizzying “Bebop”). […] They don’t mean to be taken so literally, of course. The Kin-men have ably absorbed the sparer offshoots of the bebop impulse—like alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and baritone saxophonistGerry Mulligan, swinging in an understated way in a similarly piano-less setting on Two of a Mind (RCA Victor, 1962), most clearly recalled on the new album’s title cut. Or, to take a more recent example, saxophonist Jessica Jones and French horn playerMark Taylor’s marvelous Live at the Freight (New Artist, 2012), whose post-free jazz beauty is reflected in Breathe‘s “I Hear A Singing Bowl.” […] In this pursuit of freedom, the Kin Trio stakes out broad stylistic and temperamental terrain. These guys can evoke the cool Desmond and Mulligan; “Nevele,” meanwhile, is rendered in the spirit of multi-instrumentalist Eric Dolphy. […] Another concern from Lee’s earlier records is the process of meditation as a spiritual discipline.Meditations (2008) depicted more or less literally the turmoil of the mind not at rest, whileequilibrium (2009) focused more subtly on the objects of concentration, like a rainstorm. OnBreathe, “Jing Chi Shen” continues these solo excursions, outside bebop altogether. What is apparently solo saxophone sustains a single note through slight timbral changes and effects, sustaining meditative interest for several minutes (like saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell); when a new note is struck well into the performance, it’s jarring. […] And it all ends with a lovely reading of Michael Jackson’s favorite song, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”
– Jeff Dayton-Johnson