Named for the world’s oldest operating cinema in Northwest Australia, Sun Pictures collects snapshots from the recent musical travels of the acclaimed bassist and composer.
On her third CD, Sun Pictures bassist/composer Linda Oh offers a set of musical postcards from her travels across the country and around the world. In the two years since the release of her last CD, Initial Here, Oh has performed extensively, both leading her own groups, in renowned trumpeter Dave Douglas’ new quintet, and with the Sound Prints quintet co-led by Douglas and tenor sax giant Joe Lovano. In between, she’s returned home to her native Australia to visit family, and all of those journeys are represented in the pieces on Sun Pictures.
“Each one of these tunes is a tiny snapshot of my recent travels and of my experiences playing music,” Oh says. “I think it’s a good process to keep writing even when you’re traveling and working and playing. It gets a bit tough when you have to run from one city to another, but I always try to find the time.”
The album’s title was inspired by one of those family visits. Sun Pictures is the name of the world’s oldest outdoor movie theater still in operation, which is located in Broome, a beautiful and historic town in Northwest Australia where Oh’s sister, a physician, resides along with her physician husband and children.
“It’s a very small town, rich in history,” Oh says of Broome, a tourist destination rooted in the pearl diving industry. “There’s a Chinatown in this small country town on the coast, and in that quarter there’s an amazing-looking building which is the cinema, Sun Pictures. It’s pretty unreal.”
The site is an apt parallel for Oh’s new album, which similarly frames driving narratives within serene beauty. The setting for the recording itself was unlikely; the occasion was a free session at Columbia University’s student-run jazz radio station WKCR in New York City (which could hardly be called a proper recording studio). Oh had assembled a quartet skilled enough to rise above the non-ideal setting and create the stunning, deeply attuned sound of Sun Pictures. The band includes Grammy-nominated saxophonist Ben Wendel, a founding member of the eclectic ensemble Kneebody who has worked with everyone from Monk competition winner Tigran Hamasyan and percussionist Adam Rudolph to Snoop Dogg and Prince; drummer Ted Poor, a member of the groups Bad Touch and The Respect Sextet, collaborator with the likes of Cuong Vu, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Ben Monder, and leader of the rock combo Mt. Varnum; and fellow Aussie James Muller, a gifted guitarist who at the time was visiting New York and has worked in the past with the John Scofield, Christian McBride, and Vinnie Colaiuta.