Jay Hung – The One – Album Review
Every time the bounce and spark of the way Jay Hung’s new record The One started up again on repeat, I found myself hooked into this record all over again. It’s the kind of nice problem I always look forward to having, yet so rarely often do. Jay’s a true innovator in the Electro-Jazz realm, and a pure joy to listen to. “Moon Walker” alone will confirm that for ya, and trust me when I tell ya, you’ll likely find yourself every bit as hooked as I was time after time, always looking to continue listening on from there. The dude is downright special if you ask me, and on that front, it would only take a solitary spin through “Moon Walker” to know I’m tellin’ ya the truth…Jay’s bringing something exciting to Jazz that we don’t hear in the genre, and I’d imagine that’s gonna take him a very long way on the path to his own success. Listen to how vibrant and ALIVE a song like “Moon Walker” is and you’ll know exactly what I mean – this is as fresh as it gets, and the kind of revitalization that Jazz could really use to bring in modern-day fans. You’ll see in the credits that Andy Peterson and John Ashley Thomas are lending their time and talents to this whole recording as well…I have no idea who’s doing what, but it genuinely all sounds great to me.
Like…c’mon y’all…pop on “Mission 2 Mars” and you’ll hear that Jay doesn’t even have competition for the crown yo! The man is undeniably at the top of his game, his cohorts are as well, and perhaps even better than any of that, is the fact that they’re all as willing as they are to play these songs with supreme confidence & the remarkable skills they have. With great power comes great responsibility, as they say – and when you’ve got talents like Jay, Andy, and John have, you don’t just let’em sit on the shelf and stagnate, you put’em to WORK like you hear on a track like “Mission 2 Mars.” Jazz is a great excuse for musicians to be as creative as they truly are, and listening to the three of these guys roam around and color outside of the lines with purpose and passion is fantastically inspiring. What makes this music even more impressive is that usually, when an artist like Hung is found to be at this extraordinary level of innovation and ambition, it’s quite often paired with songs that are too adventurous to reach the ears of the mainstream, you know what I mean? The brightness of the melody and the joy that Jay plays with are both absolutely irresistible elements of his music and thereby makes it authentically accessible to all.
Believe me, you’ll agree with everything I’m saying – and I’m pretty much never as sure about that as I have been while listening to this record. The One is that unique and special, but also that sparklingly fresh to listen to, that you actually feel BETTER as a human being for having had the experience – and really y’all, how often can you claim that? Tracks like “Quarantine” are true food for the mind, body, and soul. Creative AF too! It’s seriously inspiring to listen to an album made with such passion and skill, and the result of hearing such inspiration ends up being completely uplifting for US on the other side of the speakers. You’ll listen to a track like “Quarantine” and ‘get it’ – you simply couldn’t possibly make music like this without having a whole metric ton of fun in the process. I know…I know what you’re thinking – you’re like, Jazz? Sure it’s almost always fun for the players to play, but an equal amount of fun on the listening end of things as well? And yep, that’s exactly what I’m tellin’ ya. Songs like “Quarantine” are a complete riot to listen to, ambitious on a level like you don’t hear much music inside or outside of the genre, and somehow, it still retains that degree of accessibility that’ll have people that aren’t usually all that prone to listening to Jazz completely glued to their speakers. How do I know this is true? Because I’m one of those people! Don’t get it twisted and don’t get me wrong – I listen to just about everything under the sun more or less, but Jazz is not at all my go-to genre of choice. All I’m tellin’ ya is that if all Jazz sounded like the Jazz Jay Hung is making, then it most certainly WOULD be the kind of music that I seek out each and every day – who wouldn’t? This is the kind of imagination & ideas I truly love, with the flawless musicianship & instrumentation we could only dream comes along with it.
The momentum slows down a bit with “Dedicated To Lyle Mays,” which is just keyboardist Jay Hung on his own solo for the first time on this record, but the quality of the music stays remarkably consistent and equally engaging. While it’s undoubtedly more delicate and perhaps arguably less involved to some extent, it’s yet another stellar dimension of Hung’s sound and what he’s capable of as a musician. You get this stunning combination of melody and mystery combined in this tune if you ask me…and it seems like someone did, so there you go, that’s my answer & that’s what it sounds like to me. The technique that Jay plays with is STAGGERING y’all…not only is he undeniably proficient on a technical level, but he’s also really gifted when it comes to playing with passion and feel. You can tell he’s not the kind of artist that would rely heavily on post-production tricks, so the rise & fall of the volume in what he plays is genuinely the result of how he plays it…and dear readers, dear friends…lemme tell ya…even in the most delicate of settings that he runs on like you’ll hear in “Dedicated To Lyle Mays, it’s truly something else to witness. You simply don’t come across musicians like Jay every single day…I think he should be incredibly proud of the way this record has turned out and how this lineup of songs speaks volumes on behalf of how much heart, imagination, and passion he puts into his material. I like this slower gear too; I might like the opening three tracks and their uplifting vibe a bit more perhaps, but I do like this as well.
When he’s got that inspired spark in his music, you can’t help but feel the “Impact” it makes. LISTEN to this dude jam will ya? Peterson and Thomas are back in the mix, so perhaps that’s the key to raising the stakes for Jay…these three clearly play extremely well together. Drums, bass, keyboards…press record, and GO…these three are obviously ready to bring it, every time. Listening to “Impact” flip the script as it plays on is completely rad as hell y’all…this track basically shifts straight in between the realms of Jazz and IDM music seamlessly. Well…I mean…it’s JARRING in just as many ways, but it’s intended to be, so it’s seamless – you following me? You get it, you get it. There are a lot of tracks I absolutely love on this record and for plenty of reasons…and I’d put “Impact” right up there with the best of the best in my opinion. I can appreciate that this particular track might be a bit tougher for the average everyday listener to keep up with or dig into as quickly as the first three tracks might be…”Impact” is a bit more daring with the intensity of its creativity I’d say…but still…to me, there’s really something for everyone here. I’d really bet a lot on people being surprised by just how much they like or love what Jay & his crew have come up with throughout this album, whether or not they like any form of Jazz at all. There’s just something seriously magical about this level of innovation and imagination combined…these three have a real way about them that seems to continuously pump out astonishing and impressive results.
Love that hint of a record turning as “Galaxy” begins…I love the distance in the opening and how it all starts…I love the way it vibrantly comes ALIVE as you listen – and of course, I love the jazzy groove this track packs into the atmosphere for ya. From the snazzy synths to the beauty of the piano, and truly everything you’ll find in between, “Galaxy” is an otherworldly gem that again confirms Jay is on an entirely different level than most musicians you probably have on your playlists right now. The accessibility becomes more prevalent here at this point in the record again…I felt like “Impact” had a little, but “Galaxy” has more in that regard…and for anyone that was starting to feel like the melodic aspect of this record was drifting a bit too far away in trade for its creative ambitions, it’s restored. At least for the most part…I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “Galaxy” is any kind of linear affair that travels easily from point-A to point-B…I mean, it glides freakin’ SMOOTHLY on a cushion of air when it comes to how they play it, but it’s still filled with twists and turns that most people don’t tend to experience with the music they tend to listen to. So take that to heart Jay Hung, and as every bit the compliment that it’s intended to be – you’re doing things differently, and that uniqueness is leading you to greatness.
“Lost In A Piano Solo” indeed! I could get lost in this entire album, and you’d never hear me complaining y’all…not now, not ever. As I’ve been listening throughout this past week, I’ve been in complete awe of this track as I listened – “Lost In A Piano Solo,” sure – but LISTEN to those drums as this track starts out yo! That’s next-level stuff without a doubt, and straight-up extraordinary to experience. The longest track on this particular record, you get over seven minutes of Hung, Peterson, and Thomas rocking the living daylights outta their instruments, and I can promise ya – you’ll never get bored. I kept coming back to this thought about how so much of the Jazz genre can be pretentious, annoying, or not passionate enough to be noticed – and Jay’s music has been NONE of those things, at any point on this record. He IS The One dear readers, dear friends…just like Neo was The One in the Matrix, you feel me? Neo might have saved the whole planet, sure – but Jay Hung is here to help save Jazz! Alright…maybe I’m being a bit over-dramatic in the way I’m phrasing this…lemme try again – he’s updating the genre in a way that’s giving it an incredible level of appeal for the modern-day listeners out there – how about that? The way the bass groove in “Lost In A Piano Solo” locks in as the song progress is award-worthy – and you can hear how the whole rhythm section really allows Jay to become “Lost In A Piano Solo” to head in any direction that he wants to creatively, because he knows he can rely on Peterson and Thomas to keep the rest locked down TIGHT. To not find anything boring, repetitive, or stretched beyond its limits in a seven-minute song is always an accomplishment worth praising, and rare. These three take on “Lost In A Piano Solo” like they were born to play it, and it’s simply magnificent to listen to, full stop.
Conversely, “Moon Light” is the shortest track on the album at less-than two-minutes in length, and delivers one of the most endearing melodies & moments you’ll find on The One. It’s just good ol’ Jay on his own again…but in my personal opinion, he’s found the perfect gear this time around. I liked what he had goin’ on with “Dedicated To Lyle Mays,” but I loved what he created in the melody of “Moon Light.” Not every track needs to have a serious amount of length to make a substantial impact on us as listeners, and a song like “Moon Light” proves that to be true. It was the right way to wrap up the album with a moment that really felt like the conclusion…a low-key energy that feels like the house lights are about to come back on and it’s time to grab your jacket & head back out of the venue into the streets. What an adventure this album has been! I’m endlessly impressed with what Jay has accomplished and the monumental contributions that Peterson and Thomas made throughout the record, and I love that it finishes on one of the most humble tracks from Hung on his own solo to wrap up the record so sweetly.
Now…don’t quote me on this next part…because there’s still some time between what I’ve written here for ya in review and when this album gets its official release on December 21st – but…it does appear that there will be BONUS TRACKS for you as well, which expand on the first two cuts. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Jay has front-loaded this album with his best material, I do think that both “Moon Walker” and “Mission 2 Mars” are arguably two of the record’s most completely accessible tracks – so to have them both pop up again, ain’t exactly a bad idea, know what I mean? I feel like the moment you click past that first minute of the intro to the variation of “Moon Walker” and the catchiness of that melody comes back into your speakers, everyone out there will welcome this track back for another round. You regular readers of these pages of ours know how I feel about including songs twice on a record too – I usually advise against it, because you can put too much wear & tear on a great tune by doing that…but I don’t feel like Hung has put anything at risk in that regard here. For one thing, the melodies & hooks of these songs are bulletproof and guaranteed to hold up strong, but secondly, the innovative nature of the way he plays his Jazz continually gives your ears something new to hear, each and every time you have another spin. Plus…like…how about that MEATY synth breakdown around the 3:45 mark too y’all? You gotta love it! The variation of “Moon Walker” simply gives ya more of it to love – and who wouldn’t want that? At a robust 5:47, the second version of “Mission 2 Mars” becomes the second longest track on the record if these bonus cuts end up coming with the official release – but you should hope that they do…this is the kind of creativity, musicianship, and innovation that you should WANT to continue for as long as you can get it! That bass-line groove that starts up “Mission 2 Mars” is pure audible excellence, and played with outstanding professionalism & precision combined…you get more than ninety-seconds of it carrying the intro & I could have easily listened to another ninety more. You get 邱培榮 & Chris Trzcinski making an appearance on this new spin put into “Mission 2 Mars,” which seems to make quite the difference, though there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy both versions of this song, any time that ya hear’em. It’s a melody that hits the mark and hits the spot, every single time. Jay Hung – you’ve rocked my world in a wonderfully jazzy way…and I’m already looking forward to your next record, even before The One is officially out! I’m tellin’ ya folks, mark my words – this artist is special.
Find out more about Jay Hung from his main site at: https://www.jayhungmusic.com
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