Ritual Diamonds, features Korean drumming innovator Minyoung Woo in an inspired reimagining of Korean ritual drumming and contemporary jazz.
Ritual Diamonds, the latest release from award-winning bassist-composer Christopher Hale, reimagines Korean ritual drumming and contemporary jazz, creating music that is mysterious, complex and beautiful. Built within an intricate rhythmic world, the music is adorned with stirring melodies, virtuosic improvisation and epic, emotional scope. Joining Hale is Korean drumming innovator Minyoung Woo and some of Australia’s finest jazz artists: Jamie Oehlers (saxophones), Andrea Keller (Rhodes and piano), Theo Carbo (guitars) and Simon Barker (drums); with special guests Chloe Kim (cymbals, percussion) and Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet).
After a chance backstage encounter at a Korean festival in 2012, Hale and Woo quickly bonded over a fascination with rhythm. “We connected immediately,” recalls Hale, “Minyoung shared with me her deep knowledge of shaman ritual drumming styles and traditional rhythms. I shared with her the rhythms of my communities in Australia: the flamenco cycles of my background and the mathematical rhythm codes of [influential Australian percussionist] Greg Sheehan – our friendship grew, and in restaurants, bars, on buses, we had fun with rhythm.” More than just learning each other’s patterns or repertoire, the pair were sharing how their rhythms worked, revealing common musical ground deep beneath the surface differences of their respective styles. The connections between Korean ritual drumming, flamenco drama and playful rhythmic puzzles suggested a new common language for rhythm, unique to their friendship.
Growing up playing flamenco and Afro-Cuban music, Hale has long looked beneath the surface of his influences to create original music which avoids imitation or appropriation. In Woo’s Korean rhythm, Hale sensed qualities that resonated with his experience. Over the next ten years, he returned regularly to Korea, undertaking long-term study into the inner workings of Korean rhythm. “My goal was never to perform Korean music,” says Hale, “but to commit to learning how these amazing rhythm traditions worked, to better understand Minyoung and her community, and expand my musical world. Then, when Minyoung and I started playing together, it was more than just a ‘fusion’ of styles. We found musical common ground in the deep structures of each other’s rhythm, and from that place built something new together.”
Hale translated some of the pair’s shared rhythmic ideas into new compositions, creating unique settings for Woo to harness her powerful, virtuosic drumming style on the changgo (the Korean hourglass-shaped double-headed drum). “The process was inspiring,” Woo explains, “we tried different ideas through continuous exchange over a long time and tried to melt each of our strong personalities into a single music.” While traditional and contemporary Korean forms inspire the music, the rhythms and concepts of this album are brand new. “I was confident that what’s already within me could be slightly ‘twisted’ in order to make these varied and fun rhythms,” says Woo.