The compositions on trombonist Jeff Fairbanks’ album Mulberry Street—which mix his 17-piece Project Hansori jazz orchestra with five traditional Asian instrumentalists—sound very fresh. “Hansori” is Korean for “one sound,” and Fairbanks’ ensemble does bring distinct parts together in an original way. The album’s title piece, “Mulberry Street,” is a four-part suite for big band plus Asian percussion, depicting what Fairbanks describes as “experiences playing in a Western brass band at Buddhist Chinese funerals in the heart of Manhattan’s Chinatown.”
On “Mulberry Street, Part II,” the trombonist explains, “Four soprano saxes mimic Chinese bright oboe-like instruments called suona… This folk-style melody accompanied by the small gong could be a scene straight out of rural China centuries ago.” In the song “Han Oh Baek Nyeon/ 500 Years”—derived from “a very old and popular Korean folk song”—Fairbanks casts his muted trombone, so that it’s “imitating a Korean oboe-like instrument called the piri” amid a quartet of gayageum, Korean zithers. Though it’s unfathomable how a trombone, even muted, imitates an oboe, it works!
Hansori perform June 2 at LaGuardia Community College in Queens. A Mulberry Street release show is currently scheduled for June 30 at Swing 46, the Manhattan theater district supper club, where big bands play almost every night, and there’s dancing. But Hansori will definitely be a first for Swing 46.