Chinese-Australian bassist Linda Oh (now living in NYC) favors a spare setting on this debut: trumpet, bass, and drums. Oh, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, and drummer Obed Calvaire tackle these nine pieces with such a combination of looseness and aggression that at first you might not notice the delicacy of the arrangements, the dramatic use of space, the sensitivity to narrative shape and resolution.
What comes across instead is the constant rhythmic and melodic counterpoint, a unified three-way tug-of-war. Oh's steady drone and Calvaire's furious patterns will churn underneath Akinmusire's long-toned thematic lines, everyone obeying the same gravitational force. Oh likes the bass-ness of her instrument; she'll dig into big thwangy low notes, jump among registers, favor alternating currents of rhythm.
Unlike the fluid, "tasteful" guitar-like lines of modern phenoms like Christian McBride and even Esperanza Spalding, she's a throwback to a kind of '80s jazz bass associated with Fred Hopkins, Malachi Favors, John Lindberg, and Ed Schuller. This isn't "free jazz," but it's as fierce, raw, and risky as "written" jazz can get. And it ends with a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Soul To Squeeze."