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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Review: SE Kim Trio - Moment

SE Kim Trio – Moment
2009, SE Kim

SE, Kim is a graduate of The Berklee School Music with a Masters in Jazz Performance from NYU's Tisch School. He is a regular performer on the greater Metropolitan New York Jazz scene, performing at venues such as The Blue Note, the Plaza Hotel and The Desmond Tutu Center. Kim has played or worked with the likes of John Scofield, Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner and George Garzone. His style of play is mellow jazz, with guitar tendencies not too distant from folks like Scofield, Pat Metheny and occasionally even Bill Frisell. His band, the Se Kim Trio, recently released their debut CD, Moment. Let's check it out!

Moment opens with 150, a mellow jazz guitar journey nearly eight minutes in length. Se Kim plays with mild distortion and a congenial demeanor that shines through his music. Listeners might almost divine that Kim isn't so much as writing or playing on 150 as he is channeling some vital musical communication from the universe. Kim crosses over from his mellow, almost supper-club jazz stylings during longer compositions to try out experimental and acid jazz detours, but generally returns to the more genteel styles before closing out each song. Hope You Know sticks a bit closer to a classic mellow jazz sound.

Night Light has a very active melody line for this tempo. Listeners who've yet to notice might realize here how ever-present Kim's guitar is on his trio's recordings. The guitar is always the primary voice in each phrase of each song, with drums and bass relegated to providing a framework for Kim's noodling. While Kim is very accomplished as a jazz guitarist, it would be nice to hear the other instruments take center stage once in a while, even if it's just to change things up a bit. Maybe It's Better This Way returns to the supper-club sound with a Latin Jazz twist in one of the most melodically pleasant songs on the disc.

West 4th captures the spirit of Greenwich Village perfectly in song. There's a funky "different drummer" feel to this composition that's distinctive compared to the rest of the album. You Are Free To Go ranges a bit more towards a pop sound, with Kim sounding a bit like Eric Johnson stylistically (if Johnson played Jazz). Direction sounds like a song that was perhaps written with a vocal in mind. It's more of a musical frame than a full composition where the melody is implied rather than expressed. The Se Kim Trio closes out with Jam, a musical daydream that noodles along at unexpected and unpredictable lengths.

Se Kim is a highly talented musician with a great ear for melody. I think he tries to do too much on Moment. Kim's guitar is always front and center, turning the trio into a soloist with two backup musicians. The guitar and bass here are more than competent, and with a bit more range in their roles could add significant creative tension and release into the process for SE Kim. Kim is good enough to avoid this most of the time, but there is a tendency to drone on at times for the need to fill space with sound. The interplay of equal roles between musical voices can turn a good album into a great one; a great one into a legend. From a writing standpoint Kim certainly has a gift, and he didn't get through Berklee and NYU as a performer without a certain level of talent, but the ability to share the spotlight will turn Kim into a great songwriter and performer. For now, Moment is a strong listen.

Rating: 3.5 Stars (Out of 5)

You can learn more about SE Kim and the SE Kim Trio at You can purchase a copy of Moment at or download the album through iTunes.

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