Styles: Contemporary Jazz
South Korean pianist Dabin Ryu’s debut album displays the consummate skill and great promise of a young professional woman who has studied piano since age three. After coming to the U.S., Ryu earned degrees in jazz studies at the Berklee College of Music and Manhattan School of Music. It’s a remarkable story of a musician who has faced challenges, including a pandemic, and fear of fully expressing herself akin to a wall. Ryu’s compositions and arrangements show that she has studied hard and has command of several different stylistic jazz idioms. Release of Wall will also help her build confidence and receive assurance that her music is solid, expressive and meaningful. She already has experience performing and touring internationally with world-renowned artists. She now realizes that Wall is a next step for an up-and-coming musician, a declaration that she’s now ready to stand up and proudly say “This is what I do!”
Opening with the album’s biggest clarion sound, “The Light” was arranged for the instrumental voices of nine musicians. At the other end of the spectrum, “Stillborn” is a gentle composition that features the exquisite sound of Ryu’s solo, sensitive, subtle piano. “Taxi Driver” is a sweet trio piece arranged for piano, along with bass (Benjamin Young) and drums (Willis Edmundson). The title cut, “Wall” has two parts. Anthony Marsden’s impressionistic vocalizing introduces a certain melancholy mood, before “Wall, Pt. 2” provides more lively, bright and breezy conversations between piano, guitar and saxophones. Her press release explains that “Wall Pt. 1” and “Wall Pt. 2” were written out entirely, abandoning the tradition of improvisation to emphasize “the intentionality and structure of a through-written composition.” On the other hand, selections like “Moon,” “Temple Run,” “Suspicion” and “We Will Meet Again” have interpretive twists, subject to stylistic interpretation and lyrical improvisation. Most impressively, Ryu’s music shows conviction. It conveys a mastery of her art, fire of her youth, and a music sensibility that make Wall a very engaging debut album.