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Album review: 'Lilac Hill' 

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Sukyung Kim

‘Lilac Hill’


If Korean-born pianist Sukyung Kim ever visits Rochester in the springtime, she can feast her eyes on our real lilac hill at Highland Park. The title tune of Kim’s impressive debut EP, “Lilac Hill,” was inspired by a dream, but that won’t stop listeners from taking an evocative musical journey there.

A superb keyboardist, Kim began classical piano studies at the age of four. She was still working in the classical realm, on piano and in composition, when she attended the State University of New York at Binghamton. But, by the time she entered New York University to earn her master’s degree, her focus had shifted to jazz. After lessons with luminaries such as Kevin Hays, Alan Broadbent, Drew Gress, and Ari Hoenig, Kim has emerged with a distinctive compositional and instrumental voice.

Released on May 10, “Lilac Hill” contains five compositions that leave no doubt about her talents as a writer. With a wonderful melody unfolding over a complex 5/4 time signature, the song “Lilac Hill” not only features Kim’s lyrical piano style — it also treats listeners to the excellent saxophone playing of Eastman School Of Music graduate Ethan Helm and the inventive guitar work of Paul JuBong Lee.

On “Summer Days,” a tribute to her favorite pianist, Keith Jarrett, Kim switches from piano to Fender Rhodes. This sparkling composition contains some beautiful harmony between Kim and Helm and strong solos by both, while also showcasing the drumming of Jongkuk Kim. The final tune, “California,” written about her childhood there, contains a fine bass solo by Luca Alemanno.

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