Sylvia Wong Trio Project – Rediscovery

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By Zim Ahmadi

Jazz fusion, like many other crossover genres rooted in experimentation, can be self-indulgent and superfluous. But the Sylvia Wong Trio Project’s Rediscovery, with its fast-changing modes and individual virtuosity, serves as a reminder that the genre can be fun and beautiful all at the same time.

The EP is an instrumental vaudeville variety show helmed by Sylvia’s frantic yet shimmery piano skills. Sidemen Travis Tan (bass) and Arthur Kam (drums) accompany her and offer instrumental tours de force, their emotive bass lines and driving drum fills contributing to the cacophony.

Rediscovery is a brief EP, running for a scant 20-plus minutes. But the songs contain a wealth of ideas that keep you constantly on your toes. The EP eases you in with “The First Time for Everything”, its triumphant and comforting melody almost holding your hand, lulling you into thinking it’s just soft lounge jazz. It unravels steadily and beautifully, leading into the second track, which is where things start kicking off.

“Self-Doubt” falls deeper into more impressionistic, introspective territory.  When the melody starts to stagger and segment to convey urgency, the introspection quickly morphs into panic. The way it alternates between these two poles makes it a mastery of tension and release. It also exemplifies the EP’s intentions perfectly, reflecting the kaleidoscopic journey of self-improvement and its attendant uncertainties.

“Rift” ends the EP with a stabbing, more martial ambiance. It’s a battle of rhythm and restlessness, with odd time signatures and subtle contradictions. “Rift” is a perfect example of how nothing on Rediscovery overstays its welcome, too, being a five minute-piece with about five to seven emotional twists and turns. Arthur Kam’s drumming excels here, going head-to-head with the rest of the band in outright technical skill and improvisational instinct.

Rediscovery is a promising start, especially for a relatively new project. The Sylvia Wong Trio Project showcases a purposefulness that avoids the tendency to throw things at a wall just to see what sticks. That said, there’s definitely space to push themselves further. “Water to a Tree”, in particular, is dainty and pretty but pales in comparison to the rest of the EP’s ambition.

That’s a minor nitpick, though. Overall,  Rediscovery is a great starting point if you’re interested in jazz that offers more than cliché lounge inoffensiveness. Think of it as a primer before your dive into experimental jazz gets a little unhinged in all the best ways.

  • Country: Malaysia
  • Label: Self-released/independent