Pureum Jin – “Trembling Forward”

Saxophonist Pureum Jin will release her debut album, The Real Blue, on June 21 on Cellar Live Records.

Pureum Jin’s debut album The Real Blue, which is set for release June 21 on Cellar Live Records, is a gem. And not just in the musical sense. For Pureum, a Korean-born saxophonist now based in New York, unearthing the album took loads of patience and years of perseverance. 

The project began in earnest back in 2012, when Pureum attempted to record an album in her native Korea, even managing to lay down a few tracks in the studio. But the music wasn’t resonating with her, and rather than release something that didn’t feel authentic, she decided to shelve the project altogether. She wanted to get it right.

“I had so many ideas for my last record,” Pureum explained in a phone interview from her apartment in New York. “But it didn’t feel like my own voice, a voice that I can say is truly inside me. I wasn’t confident that I was ready.”

A lot has changed in the seven years since that first go-around. For one, she moved to New York City to pursue a degree at the Manhattan School of Music. Then it was off to Charlottesville, Virginia, where her husband relocated to pursue his own studies. Her first child was born soon after. On top of everything, she had to learn a new language and adapt to a new culture. Life was throwing her challenges, but despite the hardship, she remained dedicated to her craft.

“That really drove me to my limit,” said Pureum of those hectic few years. “But after going through it, I realized that now I had my story to tell. It all came naturally.”

Then the music began to flow. She wrote about those events and what they meant to her, about the struggles she had to overcome. She wrote and she kept writing. By the time the summer of 2018 came around, she was prepared to try her hand at an album once again. She enlisted pianist and producer Jeremy Manasia and an all-star lineup —  featuring the great Willie Jones III on drums, and rising stars Luke Sellick on bass and Sabeth Pérez on vocals — and let the tape roll as she poured her heart through her horn.

The resulting album, The Real Blue, is heartfelt and honest, soulful in ways both musical and spiritual. It’s clear on tunes like “Trembling Forward,” today’s Song of the Day, that the music was born of both strength and vulnerability. It’s hardly a surprise that the inspiration for that composition came from Pureum’s ruminations on becoming a parent. “Everything about it makes you scared, makes you tremble,” she said. “But in the end, you have to move forward.”

It’s an apt descriptor for jazz as well, which requires a similar embracing of the unknown. Pureum’s brand of jazz — as her solo on “Trembling Forward” surely suggests — is full of swift, limber energy; it can weave around corners just as easily as it can plunk down roots or shoot up toward the sky. Her sound draws parallels to her closest musical influences — John Coltrane, Kenny Garrett and Benny Golson — but her style is entirely her own,  informed by her studies of classical music and her apprenticeship with Jim McNeely, a pianist and composer in residence of the Village Vanguard Orchestra.

It’s also a style she honed during her time in Charlottesville, a smaller scene that allowed her to take more risks in the development of her sound. Now that she’s back in New York — “where everything important in jazz happens” — she has a renewed sense of confidence. It shows. She’s a regular presence at New York clubs like Shapeshifter, Kitano and Smalls, and earlier this year, she was even selected as one of the finalists for Made in New York jazz competition 2019. On June 21, she’ll be at Rockwood Music Hall on the Lower East Side to celebrate the release of her debut disc.

Albums like The Real Blue are worth waiting for. The reward, for the listener, comes in the form of Pureum’s warmth and ingenuity, her confidence and her commitment to her own artistic vision. This album is a gem. Now that it’s finally in the light, we can perceive its brilliance.

For more information on Pureum Jin, including a full tour schedule, visit her website.

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