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Linda May Han Oh

Linda May Han Oh (aka Linda Oh) is a double and electric bassist, bandleader, recording artist, and composer living in Harlem, New York. Her playing style on both instruments is fluid, intuitive, and vastly creative, whether she's playing bracing modernist music, exploratory post-bop, jazz-funk, or swinging straight-ahead in a hard bop setting. Her innate ability to seemingly stretch time signatures without losing her sense of lyricism or pronounced groove helped establish her as a first-call session and touring bassist. She led her own trio on her leader debut, 2009's independently released Entry, and did a five-year stint with trumpeter Dave Douglas between 2011 and 2015. She signed to his Greenleaf Music label for her own Initial Here (2012) and Sun Pictures (2013). While with the Douglas group, Oh worked with pianists Art Hirahara and Fabian Almazan and saxophonists Jim Snidero and Tineke Postma. She played on drummer Terri Lynne Carrington's award-winning Mosaic Project in 2015 -- the same year she issued her own Serial. Oh followed with an abundance of session and live work and released her fourth album, Walk Against Wind, in 2017. She played on outings with Douglas and Joe Lovano, and appeared with pianist Florian Weber's group on 2018's Lucent Waters. In 2019 she released her acclaimed Aventurine and toured the globe with the Pat Metheny Quartet. The group's travels resulted in the 2020 studio album From This Place. She was a key part of Matthew Stevens and Walter Smith III's In Common 2, and played in a trio project for ECM led by pianist Vijay Iyer with drummer Tyshawn Sorey; they released Uneasy, before Oh returned to her own acoustic and electric bass work with the 2023 quintet album The Glass Hours. In 2024, Compassion from Iyer's trio appeared on ECM. The youngest of three girls, Oh was born in Malaysia to parents of Chinese descent who emigrated to Perth, Western Australia. She began playing piano before moving first to bassoon and then to electric bass. Her parents were pleased when her older sisters chose medicine (they both became doctors) but were less than thrilled when she informed them she wanted to become a jazz musician. They supported her decision nonetheless. In 2002, Oh began playing the upright acoustic contrabass at the Western Australia Academy of Performing Arts, where she graduated with first-class honors. In 2003, Oh was a James Morrison Scholarship Finalist, and a year later, an International Association for Jazz Education (IAJE) Sister in Jazz. In 2006, she emigrated to New York and two years later won the ASCAP Young Jazz Composer’s Award. She completed her master's degree at the Manhattan School of Music in 2008, where she studied with Jay Anderson, John Riley, Phil Markowitz, Dave Liebman, and Rodney Jones. The same year, she played on Jon Irabagon's Outright album and Lithuanian saxophonist Kęstutis Vaiginis' Unexpected Choices. In 2009, she issued her debut, Entry, leading a trio with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and drummer Obed Calvaire. The recording received accolades from NPR and various other outlets. Oh gigged whenever she could, leading her own bands and appearing with others. Over the next couple of years, she recorded with Thomas Barber's Janus Bloc, Sarah Manning, Bastian Weinhold, and others. She also started going to a gym to build up her arm strength on the double bass. The reason? She played too many clubs where she couldn't mike her bass. The result was a change in tone and physicality in her command and phrasing. In 2010 she received the Jazz Journalist's Award for Up-and-Coming Artist of the Year and was Downbeat magazine's number one Acoustic Bass Rising Star; she took second place at the BASS2010 Competition in Berlin. In 2011, Oh made the first of her recordings with the Dave Douglas Quintet and Fabian Almazan Trio. Douglas' Greenleaf Music label released her sophomore recording, Initial Here, in 2012 with Almazan, drummer Rudy Royston, and saxophonist Dayna Stephens. Oh continued working live and in the studio with the Douglas and Almazan bands, as well as with saxophonist Jim Snidero on 2013's Stream of Consciousness. Her own Sun Pictures, featuring drummer Ted Poor, guitarist James Muller, and saxophonist Ben Wendel, was released the same year on Greenleaf Music and was acclaimed as the work of a young master. Oh branched out, working across the jazz spectrum both live and on recordings with Michael Dease, Greg Osby, Joe Lovano, and Kenny Barron to Chris Dingman, Melissa Stylianou, and Avishai and Anat Cohen. She appeared on Terri Lynne Carrington's widely celebrated 2015 The Mosaic Project: Love and Soul. She also appeared with Douglas and Lovano at the Monterey Jazz Festival, a recording of which was released on Blue Note as Sound Prints. She played on Art Hirahara's Libations & Meditations and marimba master Gwendolyn Dease's Beguiled (alongside bassist Rodney Whitaker) the following year. Oh released her fourth album, Walk Against Wind (her first using her full name, Linda May Han Oh) in 2017 on the innovative Biophilia label, whose signature is offering gorgeous, 20-paneled digipacks and digital download files in a variety of formats -- everything is recyclable. Oh played electric and double bass and sang with her sidemen Almazan, Wendel, and percussionist Minji Park, with guitarist Matthew Stevens and drummer Justin Brown each guesting on a track. The album was universally celebrated, prompting a critically acclaimed tour. The record also placed at number 22 on the jazz charts. (This is especially noteworthy for a jazz album whose contents could only be digitally downloaded.) In addition to playing dates with her own band, Oh joined guitarist Pat Metheny's quartet alongside drummer Antonio Sanchez and pianist Gwilym Simcock. Oh made her ECM debut in 2018 on pianist Florian Weber's Lucent Waters, alongside trumpeter Ralph Alessi and drummer Nasheet Waits. She also worked with Douglas' group again on Brazen Heart, a memorial tribute to his brother. In 2019, Oh released Aventurine for Biophilia. Its 14 original compositions featured her leading a quartet that included pianist Matt Mitchell, drummer Ches Smith, and saxophonist Greg Ward, as well as a string quartet. Her tenure with Metheny resulted in the widely acclaimed 2020 studio album From This Place for Nonesuch. She also contributed to Matthew Stevens' and Walter Smith III's In Common 2. The following year, she joined pianist Vijay Iyer's trio with drummer Tyshawn Sorey on ECM for Uneasy. For 2023's The Glass Hours, she led a texturally atmospheric ensemble, balancing her own woody, acoustic and electric bass harmonies with tactile contributions from saxophonist Mark Turner, vocalist Sara Serpa, pianist Fabian Almazan, and drummer Obed Calvaire. In February 2024, the Iyer trio's Compassion appeared on ECM.
© Thom Jurek /TiVo

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