ONE OF THE SIT-UP-AND-TAKE-NOTICE bass solo CDs of 2009 was Linda Oh’s Entry, a dark, daring trio debut featuring Oh’s upright and compositions, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and drummer Obed Calvaire. The twenty-something Oh was born in Malaysia and raised in Western Australia. At 15, after exploring classical piano, clarinet, and bassoon, Linda began playing electric bass in her high school big band and local rock bands and theater groups. Upright lessons followed soon after, and in 2004 she was a winner of the IAJE Sisters of Jazz collegiate competition in New York City. Having since moved to New York and completed her Masters at the Manhattan School of Music, Oh is fixture around town on upright and electric bass. In addition to leading her own gigs, she has backed jazz vets and rising talents including Slide Hampton, Mark Whitfield, Billy Kilson, Joel Frahm, Dave Binney, and the LeBoeuf Brothers.
What was your concept for your solo debut?
To create something different, with a unique sound. I didn’t want a “showcase” album that would present everything I could do in one hit. I wanted a concept album; one that was concise and direct; that someone could listen to in one sitting from beginning to end—something I think is rare these days— and see the logic and shape within the tunes and within the actual programming of the CD. I chose a challenging instrumentation to write for and to play with. Because there’s no chordal instrument, I needed the melodies to be direct and memorable, the harmony to be relatively simple, and the rhythm to be the most complex part. The trumpet trio is indeed an individual sound, but it’s also very difficult to pull off. The trumpet is physically demanding, so the responsibilities have to be spread around the group. It’s also usually sharp, leading us to be extra conscious about our intonation. And having no chordal instrument means more room and freedom, but also more responsibility.
You did your thesis on Dave Holland, who you site as a major influence.
Studying Dave’s music and playing, I learned a lot of the rhythmic concepts I use in soloing and accompaniment, especially over odd-time meters. I was also influenced by his use of direct melodies and counterpoint within his compositions. Just listening to his ECM albums, such as Triplicate, Angel Song, Not for Nothing, and Extended Play, has had a huge impact. They’ve moved me tremendously, and my goal in being a musician is to move people.
What led you to cover the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Soul to Squeeze”?
I’m a big fan of the Chili Peppers, especially their work in the ’90s. Flea was one of my key influences, and the band’s songwriting is amazing. “Soul to Squeeze” is one of my favorite tunes; so beautiful and moving. It didn’t make it onto Blood Sugar Sex Magik [Warner Bros., 1991]—instead it was released as a B-side to “Under the Bridge” in 1993—so I’ve always felt it didn’t get the attention it deserved.
HEAR HER ON
Linda Oh, Entry
[lindaohmusic .com, 2009];
Thomas Barber’s Janus
Bloc, Snow Road [D.
Clef, 2009]; Jason
Hainsworth Big Band, Kaleidescope
Upright bass German Pfretzschner,
Strings Olive on the G, Pirastro
Flexocors D, A, and E
Pickup David Gage Realist
Bow French carbon fiber bow
Electric bass Fender Marcus Miller
Jazz Bass with D’Addario roundwounds
Rig Acoustic Image Contra
Studio “For Entry, we used a Neumann
pencil mic in my bridge, and a ribbon mic
a bit higher and closer to the fingerboard.”