Why we recommend it: From traditional Korean folk songs to hits by Brazilian composers, Yeahwon Shin manages to find a niche in the beautifully communal characteristics of music everywhere.
Best tracks: “Palhaco,” “Na Baixa do Sapateiro,” “Memoria e Fado”
Yeahwon Shin makes her way out from the shadow of her father-in-law (famed conductor Chung Myung-whun) with the domestic release of her eponymous U.S. debut album.
“Yeahwon” demonstrates Shin’s immersion into Brazilian music, with most of the tracks being sung in a clear, ringing Portuguese (which she continues to study). The Seoul-raised, New-York based jazz vocalist explores the light-filled corners of the genre with a natural ease.
Two of the tracks are sung in her native Korean: the traditional folk song “Sae Ya Sae Ya” (Hey Bird Hey Bird) and composer Egberto Gismonti’s “Palhaco,” which Shin translates with Korean lyrics.
“I’m doing Brazilian music but I want to do it my own way, and I think my experience as a Korean is very important,” the artist says on her website.
The combination works, and the similarities in culture are subtly unearthed through Shin’s alternately soft, playful and soaring voice. The graduate from New School University hits a quieter range than Pink Martini’s China Forbes, but a wholly elegant stance that is impossible to overlook.
Though never quite reaching a level of booming operatics, Shin nonetheless reminds listeners of the pure simplicity of jazz vocals, lounge singing and everything singular, sublime and sensual.
“Na Baixa do Sapateiro” brings a humanity to her sound — the collective clapping and chorus adding an element of street-side realism.
Released through the fan-funded, musician-collaborative ArtistShare, Shin’s album brings together a variety of veteran NY musicians, providing a remarkable support to her sound.
Bassist Ben Street, drummer Jeff Ballard, Kevin Hays and Alon Yavnai on piano, Rob Curto on accordion and Cyro Baptista on percussion join her. Gismonti also makes an appearance for closing track “Memoria e Fado” (a hauntingly emotional piece).
Backed by such prestigious contemporaries, “Yeahwon” finds harmony in all aspects of its production: an ethical base (ArtistShare is the first of its model, and ensures pay to all artists prior to release), to talented collaborators and, finally, the spirit of the musician herself.
Three-and-a-half stars out of four stars.
— INES MIN
Ten years since the release of his debut album “The Voice,” Russell Watson returns with “La Voce,” which of course, means “the voice” in Italian.
The British tenor has reportedly suffered from health problems, but shows that he has recovered with finesse in his new recording. Russell’s smooth and silvery voice and tempered style has a streak of Jose Carreras, particularly even more given the strong Italian character of the album.
The opener, “Parla Piu Piano” (which many may recognize as the love theme from the film “The Godfather”) is “La Voce’s” winning track, with emotion and depth.
The track list includes only one opera number, an adaptation of the Intermezzo from “Cavalleria Rusticana.” Other classical adaptations includes the Albinoni-inspired “Adagio” and the rather ill-fitting “E Sara Cosi,” which is better known as the 18th of Rachmaninov’s Paganini Variations.
Two-and-a-half out of four stars.
— LEE HYO-WON
Ciara’s fourth studio album may have forecast as a “return to her roots,” but “Basic Instinct” lacks the gleam of her debut and follow-ups. The 11 tracks meander back and forth from heavy club beats to that “Crunk&B” style, but predictable electronics lend to a burdensome, cliched album.
Inspired by that infamous 1992 film, the album falls short of capturing both the mystique and neurotically sirens-esque femme fatale of Sharon Stone (epitomized in closing track “I Run It”). Instead, Ciara fades into the broad strokes of “Gimme Dat” and the robotic repetition of even her own voice in “Heavy Rotation.”
While the title track offers a promising hip-hop start, things slide until the Usher featured “Turn it Up.” The penultimate “Wants for Dinner” is the only number that seems to truly take advantage of the sultry Ciara, reminding the artist of her position straddling the boundaries of urban, R&B and sexy.
One-and-a-half out of four stars.
— INES MIN